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HUNT FOR RED OCTOBER, THE(director: John McTiernan; screenwriters: from the book The Hunt for Red October by Tom Clancy/ Larry Ferguson/Donald E. Stewart; cinematographer: Jan de Bont; editors: Dennis Virkler/John Wright; music: Basil Poledouris; cast: Sean Connery (Capt. Marko Ramius), Alex Baldwin (Jack Ryan), Scott Glenn (Capt. Bart Mancuso), Sam Neill (Capt. Vasily Borodin), James Earl Jones (Admiral James Greer), Joss Ackland (Andrei Lysenko), Richard Jordan (Jeffrey Pelt), Peter Firth (Ivan Putin), Tim Curry (Dr. Petrov); Runtime: 135; MPAA Rating: PG; producer: Mace Neufeld; Paramount; 1990)
“Delivers its share of honest to goodness thrills.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

John McTiernan (“Predator”/”Die Hard”) directs the first of many films to follow a Tom Clancy best-seller thriller novel with eccentric and egocentric CIA analyst hero Jack Ryan. It’s better crafted for its technology hardware display than for its human interactions. Since it’s more suspenseful than it is not, it proves itself cinema worthy after a few exciting undersea scenes act to alleviate long stages of tedium. The public agreed with its worth and made it one of the ten top box office hits of 1990. Its Cold War subject matter mixes truths with fancy in a sure-fire style that has endeared Clancy to a large segment of the public. “Red October” despite some drawbacks over clarity issues, nicely recovers and delivers its share of honest to goodness thrills.

Sean Connery is Russian submarine commander Marko Ramius of the brand new top-secret “Red October,” Russia’s newest and most technologically advanced silent submarine featuring lethal first strike ability and the ability to remain undetected by sonar–with enough nuclear capability to push ahead of the Americans. He might or might not be defecting on the maiden voyage, a training run, as Connery knocks off his political adviser, burns his orders, and changes direction from the determined course and is heading to USA’s waters. There’s also the possibility he might be starting a nuclear war, be insane, or testing the submarine’s capabilities of detection. The CIA is aware of the Red October and thinks the worse, but to make sure before doing something rash they rely on the advise of Jack Ryan (Alex Baldwin). He does not believe Connery will start WW III and sets about to prove he’s right by trying to infiltrate the elusive sub. Meanwhile Russia gives out disinformation to not let on if their captain is in mutiny or still following orders, but are right behind Red October and plan to blow it up before it reaches America’s East Coast.

It’s a complicated plot that plays up the hi-tech unveiled and the battle of nerves between the confident renown veteran Connery and the brash young Baldwin. Its central theme revolves around the same paranoia both countries have had about each other since the end of WWII, that is fear of a nuclear war being triggered. Though the film fails when it tries to go any deeper than the surface in exploring the characters, as its efforts just reinforce that we are dealing with stock characters who are only elevated by the suspenseful story and the situation they find themselves in.

This is the type of rare action film that is thought-provoking and can be genuinely called a “thinking man’s picture.”


Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”