- Directed by John McTiernan
- March 2, 1990 (United States)
A Russian captain has decided to defect and now the Russians and the Americans are trying to get to him first.
The Hunt for Red October is one of the better Cold War thrillers out there. Calling it a classic is not out of bounds. One of the great strengths here is that the story doesn’t fall into cliché or caricature and keeps you on the edge of your seat from beginning to end. And you are genuinely invested in the characters in the film. Each one gets an arc and their fate matters to the viewer. From the crew of the Red October to Jack Ryan, they all matter and are well defined in the film.
I’m pretty sure this was my first contact with Alec Baldwin. Maybe even the Baldwin clan to be honest and considering their number that is quite impressive. There are way too many of them out there. I had not seen Beetlejuice prior to this and would never have watched Knots Landing because, well, I have standards.
Baldwin plays Jack Ryan who is a CIA intelligence analyst, author, and Professor of Naval History at the United States Naval Academy. He is called in when the existence of a new type of sub in the form of the Red October is uncovered. The vessel and its revolutionary drive are seen as a significant military threat. On a side note, at the very beginning you’ll notice that Ryan’s wife is played by Gates McFadden who became famous for playing Dr. Beverly Crusher in Star Trek: The Next Generation. Just a fun fact for me.
Sean Connery stars as Captain Marko Ramius who along with some of his handpicked senior staff plans on using the titular vessel to defect to the US. They all have their own reasons, but Ramius’s executive officer Captain Vasily Borodin (Sam Neill) is probably the most touching. He simply wants an American wife and a truck and to be able to drive around wherever he pleases. His fate in the film is the one that hits the hardest.
Tim Curry is known for dare I say being a little hammy as well as scene chewing in his acting, but here he is surprisingly muted as ship’s medical officer Dr. Petrov. This was an amazing performance on his part. I’m not dissing anything he has done before or since but this was genuine acting and not just being trademark Tim Curry.
In other cast members we have the great Scott Glenn as Commander Bart Mancuso who is the commanding officer of USS Dallas, the legendary James Earl Jones shows up as Vice Admiral James Greer who is the Deputy Director of the CIA, Richard Jordan is National Security Advisor Jeffrey Pelt, Stellan Skarsgård is Captain Tupolev, and Fred Thompson is Rear Admiral Joshua Painter. Not bad.
There are no bad or mediocre performances to be found. But more importantly it does not feel as if any one performer is trying to steal or hog the screen. They all have an equal presence while on camera and that includes the legendary James Earl Jones. The man can steal a scene with his voice alone but not here.
While there are scenes of action in this movie the story is very much based around the characters and not action spectacle. It’s a thinking person’s film. It is tense with the characters surviving using their minds rather than guns blazing. While an explosion does solve their problems, it is not a reflexive solution to each issue they face in the story.
There are differences between the book and film, but John McTiernan turned in a great version of the Tom Clancy novel. Speaking of John McTiernan what happened to him? He turned in some really great films and then his life just fell apart. He should have been a legendary director still working today. What a loss. He made Predator, Die Hard, and this for crying out loud and this! They are all amazing works. The man had skill.
And I can’t skip talking about the legendary Basil Poledouris. The man was behind so many classic film scores. Both of the original Conan films, RoboCop, and he also worked on this. The man was a genius and shows what you can get when a good composer writes music that is performed by an orchestra and not crafted on a keyboard.
The Hunt for Red October is a classic thriller. It’s well acted and well scripted with great direction. It is most definitely a must see!