I'm not a gamer. That may come as a surprise to most of you who I believe will be drawn to this review almost entirely seeking the endorsement of an established gamer. Before I opened the package bearing the copy of TOM CLANCY'S GHOST RECON: ALPHA I had never so much as heard of TOM CLANCY'S GHOST RECON; I didn't know it was an established gaming franchise; I didn't know anything more than `Tom Clancy' is an established author of very credible techno-military thrillers ... but I was probably as equally excited as you are to see what this ALPHA film was all about, and, let me tell you, I was riveted. ALPHA - slated for release on May 22 along with Ubisoft's "Tom Clancy's Ghost Recon Future Soldier" video game for Xbox 360 and Sony PlayStation 3 - is nothing short of brilliant.
Now, a little back history here ...
As best as I understand it, Ubisoft launched the Tom Clancy Ghost Recon brand back in 2001, and it boasts a series of video games in and around the fictional military universe created by the author himself. From what I learned from the `making of' featurette on the disc, Ghost Recon crosses into several entertainment platforms - games, films, and books - and capitalizes specifically on the characters and situations created by Mr. Clancy in delivering high suspense military adventures, all set against a backdrop of international intrigue. These soldiers are part-combat-specialists, part-special-ops-soldiers, as well as part-spies, and they're equipped with only the best state-of-the-art equipment that the military has to offer.
As for Alpha's story?
Operatives within the U.S. intelligence community have finally closed in on Chevchenko, a villain involved with all measures of international badness. The Ghost team is sent in to stop the delivery of Bulava class nuclear weapon. The stakes are high, but the team will stop at nothing to keep America safe from nuclear terrorism. Specifically, ALPHA's story serves as a prequel to the `Future Soldier' game.
To put it bluntly, this 25-minute film contains as much action as some full features I've seen. And I'm not talking low-brow guns'n'guts action: I'm talking cream-of-the-crop elite military engagements here. Ubisoft spared no expense in crafting this tense little flick, bringing in some behind-the-scenes talent who contributed to such features as CHILDREN OF MEN, BLACK HAWK DOWN, and THE BOURNE ULTIMATUM. Additionally, they brought in Military Weapons Specialist Harry Humphries (I've heard of Humphries contributions to other films, and he's a bit of a Hollywood legend), who's served as a consultant to such films as TRANSFORMERS, IRON MAN, and THOR. I hated hated hated for this to end - though I suspected it would when I realized it was, essentially, an elongated set-up for a game - but what was delivered was terrific.
And, yes, maybe (just maybe) this will infuriate folks who hate being mildly `spoiled' - so, if you're inclined, then look away, brave reader, look away - but it all ends on a cliffhanger. That's right! It doesn't exactly wrap itself up all neatly in one 25-minute package because it's a set-up for the game. It may help to think of it as one long commercial - not that there's anything wrong with it - because that's what you get: a hugely successful tease for what I have no doubt will be a hugely successful video game if the film is any indication.
The film is a joint production of Ubisoft Entertainment and Little Minx (a subsidiary of Ridley Scott & Associates) along with Flatiron Film Company. You wouldn't believe it's a short film (and you certainly wouldn't want it to end!) because everything about it is absolutely top notch. Video production is exceptional; audio production is terrific; and immeasurable great detail has done into every aspect consistently. When these folks say "feature film," they mean it. The disc comes with a making-of featurette (at 28 minutes, it's actually longer than the film itself, and it's entirely worth it to see what lengths they went to in putting all of this together) and a single preview that apparently screened at the 2010 Comic-Con.
HIGHEST RECOMMENDATION with only the single reservation that - as I've already said - I didn't want it to end. It's a military techno-thriller done by folks who clearly know what that means.
In the interests of fairness, I'm pleased to disclose that the fine folks at New Video graciously provided me an advance screener DVD of TOM CLANCY'S GHOST RECON: ALPHA for the expressed purposes of completing this review.