PictureBy anyone's standards, the picture quality on this 1.85:1 anamorphic transfer is excellent. The Kosovo scenes are very well rendered and the transfer copes admirably with the shadows of the night-time raid. The blacks are particularly solid and deep, retaining detail and composure against the bright flashes of tracer, explosions and burning fires. Colour bleed is not noticeable in any way, nor is the presence of any artefacts obvious.
From there, the transfer just gets better and better. The forest scenes are amongst the richest of their type that I've ever seen on a DVD transfer. Colour saturation is fabulous (the palette has an intentional washed out appearance) - just witness the almost 3-dimensional shots of the forest undergrowth, absolutely stunning. The detail on offer is quite fantastic, with no edge enhancement, haloing or other nasty artefacts. Speaking of edge enhancement, it's entirely absent from the whole film: we just get a clean, sharp image that looks wonderfully realistic and filmic.
Flesh tones look equally authentic and faces appear detailed and crisp, much like everything else in this excellent transfer. In fact as far as flaws go, the only time I noticed anything amiss was near the beginning of the movie, when the words "Silver Falls Oregon" appear on the screen. As the shot pans across the vista, grain is evident in the mist (bottom left of the screen), although I would concede that mist/fog/clouds are amongst the worst offenders in any DVD transfer for revealing grain. This moment aside, the print can be considered reference quality. Excellent.
The layer change is around 54:50, and is nestled between two scenes (no fadeout), but does not detract from the film.
SoundPresented in Dolby Digital 5.1 (448kbps), The Hunted is a masterful example of how a 5.1 soundtrack should sound. Even in the opening seconds - as a deep American voice speaks over the blank screen - the soundtrack exhibits a richness and clarity that I haven't heard in a while. The opening sequence - Kosovo - will get your speakers and subwoofer working overtime. Steering here is spot on, with an aggressive mix which has people screaming and bullets flying with crystal clarity from all 4 corners of the room, along with background sub-bass rumblings from afar. Couple this with some serious LFE-tastic explosions - we're talking bass below 20hz here people - and this is one opening 5 minutes which demands attention.
From then on the soundtrack eases back to a more sedate affair, but this isn't to say it is any less impressive. Indeed, there are moments here to test more than just how loud your speakers can grunt - the "waterfall panning" sequence (13:30) is a great scene to test the tonal balance between your mains and centre speaker - the transition should be gradual and seamless.
It's clear that the sound engineers had fun with this soundtrack: whilst nothing seems particularly over the top, the surround usage is liberal, precise, and damn effective. Whether it be general ambient noises or specific events, the rears are active more often than not. The "voice" (13:45) is a textbook example of good surround use: it's precise - with no channel bleed to the front soundstage - very clear and all the more impactful for being unexpected. Another good example of surround usage in an ambient context is the flies (23:20)...very subtle, but equally effective. Other standout surround moments are 58:10 - "Get on the floor"- and 50:20 - "Drums".
Aside from the beginning sequence, heavy LFE usage seems largely absent until almost exactly an hour into the film. Not that this is a negative point, it's not necessary. But at exactly 1:01:00 some fantastic LFE accompanies Jone's descent into the dankness. If you have a capable-enough subwoofer you will barely hear anything at all, but you'll feel the sub 20hz bass waves rolling through the room. Remember I said that nothing is "over the top"?. I lied.
Overall this is a stunning soundtrack, with all channels being used effectively. It's probably not one that many people will use as a demo piece, as many of the joys lies in subtler moments than the usual wham-bam-are-your-ears-bleeding-yet? demo pieces that people show to their friends. Certainly it's capable of those moments - the sonics are by turns bold, dynamic and in your face..but at the same time it's quiet and subtle with lots of opportunities to test the nuances of anyone's AV system.
ExtrasFirst up we have a feature commentary by Director William Friedkin, which makes for an interesting listen: his commentary is often varied, covering various aspects of the production, narration on the story as it unfolds onscreen, and many personal thoughts on the world of film in general, including comment on some of his earlier films. We also have 4 featurettes (running a little less than 10 minutes each), which deal with various elements such as a focus on the real-life tracker on which Tommy Lee Jones' character is based, various cast interviews, elements on filming the production, and a section on filming in obscure locations. Also featured are a number of deleted scenes (and like most deleted scenes, they don't really offer anything unmissable) and theatrical trailers for the movie itself and others - The Core, Timeline and The Indiana Jones Trilogy. Overall, a reasonable collection of extras supporting a good DVD release.
VerdictWhilst this thriller suffers from "we've been here before" syndrome, it's still a competent piece of cinema, and teamed with a great video transfer, stunning soundtrack and good collection of extras, this is a solid release worthy of your attention.
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