The Hunt for Red October
Runtime: 134 minutes
Aspect Ratio: 2.20 : 1
Director: John McTiernan
Release Date: 03/02/90
Cast: Sean Connery, Alec Baldwin, James Earl Jones, Scott Glenn, Sam Neill, Fred Dalton Thompson
The Hunt for Red October was released in theaters in 1990. Is it possible that a movie almost twenty years old still carries its panache? A best-selling military thriller set in the Cold War Era written by Tom Clancy is a good start to a twenty-year success. Clancy’s novel of the same name was published in 1984 and involves a Lithuanian submarine captain, named Marko Ramius, who has made his way into the highest ranks of the Russian navy. In the movie, Ramius is played by Sean Connery. Ramius has watched his wife die an untimely death due to a doctor’s incompetence. However, the doctor receives impunity because of his personal relationships to the leaders in Russian government. Ramius’ wife’s premature death and a history of brutality from the Russian navy serve as the catalyst for Ramius’ desire to defect to America.
Trolling in the deep waters of the North Atlantic, Ramius has been given charge of the newest piece of technology in the Russian nuclear war against America. “The Caterpillar” is what they call revolutionary technology onboard the Russian submarine that allows the ship to move completely silent through the water. Without being able to be detected by any counterintelligence, the Russian submarine can inch closer to the American coast and fire a nuclear attack on cities like New York City. As Ramius plans to defect, the drama intensifies both inside the submarine and between governments.
In a Cold War Era movie, there are a lot of stereotypes that can really make the movie feel dated and like a propaganda piece. The Hunt for Red October, as a whole, succeeds in skirting the stereotypical character sketches. What Clancy is so good at doing is wrapping a drama in a historical context, like the Cold War, and still make this movie about the decision in the hands of one single man. With all the million-dollar machinery and government intelligence, there millions of lives depending on the decision of Ramius and the CIA officer who is trying to understand his motivations.
Alec Baldwin plays a young CIA officer named Jack Ryan. Through Jack Ryan’s research on Marko Ramius, he believes that the Lithuanian really does want to defect to the U.S. He must now convince the American government that he is correct about Ramius as Russian and American ships search the underwater darkness for the Red October in order to recover it.
Tom Clancy’s novel spent such a great deal of time to develop carefully the plot. His novels are built one brick on top of another so that the climax and character revelations are built, well-developed and complex. The movie is a nice tribute to the Clancy novel, but can not measure up to this standard of plot and character development in the short time frame of a movie. There were also many changes made to the chronology of events in the book as compared to the movie.
Another problem is when you take a technologically advanced book out of the imaginative pages and put it onto the big screen for scrutiny. If you are in the navy, or know about submarines, you will inevitably have some complaints about a “Hollywood” submarine. The inside of the submarine looked new, shiny and the gadgets aboard bright and blinking. However, daily life a real submarine was not depicted on The Hunt for Red October. The submarine scenes above water are also a bit lackluster. In a time before the seamless computer graphics technology we have now, the submarines float on the water in a less than believable shot.
The Hunt for Red October was a commercial success for all who were involved. There were many awards given to the cast and crew including an Oscar in 1991 for Best Sound Effects Editing.