Saturday, October 4, 2014

Movie #276: The Hunt for Red October

The Hunt for Red October is a 1990 spy movie based on a novel by Tom Clancy. It stars Alec Baldwin, Sean Connery, Sam Neill, James Earl Jones, Courtney B. Vance, Fred Thompson, and Tim Curry.

Here we are in the Cold War, and the Russians have developed a "first strike" sub that moves silently and undetectably, but is bigger than a WWII aircraft carrier. On its maiden voyage, Captain Ramius (Connery) murders the political officer aboard, falsifies the orders, and makes for the US, intending to defect. Most of the officers, including the first mate (Neill), are in on it, though the crew at large is not.

Meanwhile, in the US, Jack Ryan (Baldwin), who is a doctor of something, but they never say what; he's an analyst for the CIA, talks to a buddy of his who makes subs (Jeffrey Jones) and realizes that the sub with the "caterpillar" drive really exists. An American sub hanging out near Russia figures out that the Red October exists, though not what it really is, and follows it. Ryan gets aboard said sub, and convinces its captain (Scott Glen) that the Red October isn't going to blow up the ocean, but that the captain is trying to defect. There are thrilling sub maneuvers, a shootout below decks, and the Russians get to defect while the crew gets sent home.

I saw this movie when it opened, so I would have been about a sophomore in high school. I like it well enough; it's a good Cold War flick that doesn't make the Russians into mindless goons or the Americans into cheerful heroes, and it's a good look at sub combat and tactics, I think. Plus, the neat little trick at the beginning of having the Russian characters speak Russian until you kind of get "pulled in" by the politico speaking in English is fun, and helps to convince us that Connery's accent isn't pure Scottish.

OK, not really. But it's a well-acted piece, the pace is steady but not languid, and we get a sense of at least a few of the characters. You can tell from the moment Sam Neill starts talking about Montana, though, that he's fucked. No one else gets that much monologue.

My grade: B+
Rewatch value: Medium

Next up: Idle Hands