The Hunt for Red October

The Hunt for Red October. Paramount Pictures 1990.

Before watching the movie:

This movie stars Alec Baldwin and Sean Connery, is based on Tom Clancy’s work, and the main thing I’m thinking about is that the plot reminds me of the Star Trek episode “Face of the Enemy”. That’s how my mind works.

Alec Baldwin’s obviously in the “taking things seriously” part of his career, and I have no great expectations for Connery other than being his usual brand of incongruous greatness (A Scottish Russian, you say…)

After watching the movie:

The experimental Soviet silent submarine Red October is heading deep into American waters, and Jack Ryan is the only man who can guess why: Captain Ramius is trying to defect as a political statement triggered by the death of his wife. The rest of the American navy can’t be so sure, but Ryan has to convince them to at least let him try to contact the sub. If they can find it.

Strangely, Alec Baldwin is the sort of actor I would have chosen for the kind of man I thought Jack Ryan was, and then he turned out to be different from my expectations but still well-suited for the role.  Jack Ryan isn’t a reserved action hero, but a CIA writer thrust into action situations. This is a very cerebral film, to the point that the action sequence finale bordered on being out of place. It’s an entirely different sort of role from what I’d expect Harrison Ford to play. Baldwin’s Ryan can’t stand air turbulence and is only put in action because he’s the most expendable man briefed on the possibility of Ramius’s defection. I wouldn’t be surprised if Harrison Ford’s Ryan prefers punching to panicking.

As usual, Sean Connery more or less plays the same character. But he plays him really well. Ramius is always dignified, calmly burning his bridges behind him. His announcement to his officers that he informed the Admirality of his intent to defect when they left port is delivered with at the same time casual mention and deepest import. Late in the film, when he speaks actual English, not translated for narrative convenience, I think I caught a bit of an attempt at a Russian accent.

This is billed as a “techno-thriller”, but I didn’t feel a very strong technology angle. Sure, the sub has a spiffy new “silent drive”, and they can only listen for it with geological equipment, but the technology is just set dressing to me. The point is entirely about Ramius’s psychology and Ryan’s understanding of it.

 

Watch this movie: For Sean Connery being as smart and resourceful as ever, and Alec Baldwin being a reluctant action hero.

Don’t watch this movie: To see the bloody Ruskies get theirs.

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