We hated the Russians so much, we just cast Scotsmen in their roles!
Soviet naval officer Captain Marko Ramius (Sean Connery) is a pretty big deal, especially since he himself, along with the rest of his crew are aboard the submarine known as “Red October”. What makes this sub so special is that it’s able to move so silently throughout the ocean, without ever being detected by a fellow ship or submarine. It can practically get from point-A-to-point-B, without a single hiccup or interruption to be found in between, which is probably why the U.S. government freaks out so much when they have the slightest idea that Ramius, along with his ship and crew, may be heading for the States in hopes that they’ll blow-up Washington and send us a message we’ll be soon to never, ever forget. However, most members of the U.S. government have no clue who Ramius is, or the type of man he truly is; all of them, with the exception of one CIA agent Jack Ryan (Alec Baldwin). See, Ryan believes a theory that Ramius isn’t actually coming to America to blow us up, but rather to escape his country in hopes that he can start anew and get away from all of the pain, hardships and suffering he’s witnessed over there in Russia. Problem is, Ryan’s going to have to do a lot of convincing, to a lot of people, and may have to do it all before the Russians themselves pick-up the pace with Ramius’ ship and get rid of him for betraying them.
It seems like adapting a Tom Clancy novel can be a hard task to go through with, especially considering his books are so dense and rich with detail, jargon and exposition. That’s why most of these Jack Ryan movies that are made, usually try to center on the well-known CIA Agent-character himself, in hopes that they don’t have to put that much of an eye on the technology Clancy himself loves to chat about, but also piss-off those devout readers of his, just in case you have to change some things up in the process. But that’s not the department where director John McTiernan doesn’t screws up; in fact, from what I hear, he stayed pretty damn loyal to the source-material, which must have been very hard considering there’s all sorts of stuff going on here, and sometimes, all at once.
To start things off though, I have to be honest and tell you all like it is: The first 20 or so minutes of this are pretty hard to get into. Not only is the movie relatively slow as molasses, but there’s a lot of talking going on here that you don’t know what it’s all really about. I got that the movie itself was trying to set-up character’s, give us a bit of insight into them and have us locked and loaded for what was to be the premise for the rest of this movie, but oddly enough, I felt like I may have stumbled upon the middle-half of the movie, where we’ve already been introduced to everything it is that we need to know with this story, the characters and the central-conflict at hand. And I’ve already seen this before, so to have that problem occur once again, made me feel like I was surely making a mistake, one that I should have left as another “one and done” deal.
But, as I expected it to, things began to sort themselves out and this is where McTiernan’s skills as a director come into play, as he’s somehow able to rack-up tension, just by throwing little bits and pieces of information at us. When a couple of people are speaking about what options they have next on the table for themselves, I couldn’t help but feel riveted and wonder what conclusion all of these peeps were going to come to. Most of the time, hell, I didn’t even know what they were talking about, or even how they gained all of that information in the first place, but I trusted McTiernan enough as a director to where I knew that wouldn’t bother me and I’d just have to pay attention a bit more.
That’s why “paying attention” is exactly what you’re going to have to do with this one, because the more you figure stuff-out, sometimes along with the characters in this film themselves, the more the tension amps-up and absolutely sucks you in. Submarine-thrillers seem to always do the trick for me nowadays, but this one really got to me as I could practically taste the sweat dripping off of each and every one of these dude’s foreheads, feel the heat from the steam running all throughout the submarine itself and the constant clinging and clanging of the steel up against, whatever it was that it was constantly clinging and clanging against. I felt like I was right there, watching the ride, enjoying the show and in the middle of a dire situation that just seemed to get more and more suspenseful and unpredictable as it went along, even if I already knew what the outcome was going to be beforehand.
And that, my friends, is exactly when you know a thriller is doing its job, and doing its job correctly. God, I wish John McTiernan would get out of the clink, come back and continue to make movies. Because, I don’t know about you, but I think some people may need him around for another flick or two.
Just saying, legal system.
Another reason why this thriller works so well too, and in many ways, why it isn’t as dated as most movies from the year of 1990 are and/or ought to be, is because it doesn’t really take any political-stance on the Cold War itself. We see plenty of development on the sides of both the Americans, as well as the Russians, and while the former may get a tad better treatment than the latter, it still should be noted that the flick never makes it out to seem like these Ruskies are the types of soulless, blood-sucking nuke-nuts that the media may have portrayed them as. Sure, they went into the war with their weapons and heads held high, but they were also fighting for their families, friends and most importantly, their country. Hate to start sounding like a die-hard liberal over here, but it’s a nice change-of-pace to actually see from a movie for once in which we aren’t given a clear-cut, black-or-white situation with these two sides. We see them both as humane, for better and sometimes, for worse.
Acting as channels for both of those sides are the performances from Alec Baldwin and Sean Connery, who both play on both sides of the coin, but also seem to understand one another as human-being, as well as tactical soldier. This is infamously Alec Baldwin’s one-and-done stint as Jack Ryan, and while I wouldn’t say he is amazing here, he certainly isn’t terrible neither. Actually, I’d just put it simple and state that Baldwin’s fine, and while I do think that, in recent time, we’ve seen him come-off a lot better as a supporting-player, much more than the star of the show, he still does a nice job as Jack Ryan, giving us a guy that has the brains to think his way into, and out of any particular situation, and even if he may not have the skills to succeed in a fight, isn’t afraid to get his hands dirty a bit. Over the next couple of flicks, this element to the character of Jack Ryan would begin to change and evolve into a more “fuck yeah”, action-y type of character, but it still worked well for Baldwin nonetheless.
The one this movie really works wonders for is Sean Connery who, despite obviously trying to hide his thick Scottish-accent, really does give a certain heroic-pose and feel to Marko Ramius, even though he may definitely make some questionable decisions as Captain of the ship, here and there along the way. Still, through it all, Connery seems like the type of guy you’d be able to trust when he’s at the helm of all this, and be able to spit some inspiration into your hearts, even when he clearly knew the shit was about to hit the fan. However, there’s a reason for why he stays so calm and never clams-up throughout this deadly situation, and it’s one that humanizes him and makes us see that Connery can work with anything. Just throw him a script worthy of his talents and watch him spin the wheels. Gosh, I truly do miss him.
Consensus: May not be the quickest, most punchiest thriller you’ll ever see in your life, but it still stands, and stands in high-order that The Hunt for Red October is an exceptional thriller that gets down the meat of the situation, while never forgetting about making it fun, exciting and worth while for everybody involved, especially the audience sitting back at home and using their brains as hard as they can.
8 / 10 = Matinee!!