Tuesday, October 2, 2012


(March 1990, U.S.)

I've mentioned this before (which means I'll mention it again!) - the year 1990 was one of the worst years of my life. It started out bad the moment the clock struck twelve on New Years Eve and pretty much stayed that way for the next three hundred sixty-five days. While most people might have turned to drugs or alcohol (maybe I should have!) to combat such a depressive state, I turned to the movie theaters for any means of joyful escape. It didn't always help because from my own personal retrospect, 1990 was not such a great year for movies. THE HUNT FOR RED OCTOBER was the first film of that year (and that decade) that truly brought a smile to my face. I even saw it twice.

You know, some time ago when I wrote my blog for the late Tony Scott's CRIMSON TIDE (1995), I received a little bit of flack from some readers when I declared it my favorite submarine film. People couldn't comprehend why I'd chosen that over THE HUNT FOR RED OCTOBER. My reasons are, of course, my own, but I'm here now to tell you that director John McTiernan's follow up to DIE HARD (1988) is a spectacular, high-tech submarine thriller in its own right. By March 1990, the Soviet Union and the Berlin Wall had already been disolved for several months now, so the timing of Tom Clancy's story of high tensions at sea between the United States and the Russians may have already seemed dated and out of touch with current events. But the action in this film takes place in 1984 during the Cold War, shortly before Mikhail Gorbachev came to power. Captain Marko Ramius (played by the great Sean Connery), is the commanding officer of Red October, a new Soviet typhoon-class submarine whose silent caterpillar drive renders it virtually undetectable to sonar. Once put to sea, the U.S. and Soviet powers believe that Ramius may be a renegade mad man with his own diabolical intentions behind the sub's nuclear powers. CIA analyst (played by Alec Baldwin) must race against time to prove that Ramius' intentions are actually to defect and turn over Russia's super sub to the United States. It's tense-filled cat-and-mouse undersea adventure with suberb acting by all involved.

Viewed all these years later, one of the first things I do is not to try and over-compare the role of Jack Ryan between Alec Baldwin and Harrison Ford. Both bring their own individual spirits of the character to life in their own thrilling adventures. Alec Baldwin is still young and still a very fresh face to the screen and does not need to rely on any "movie star" elements to keep his performace afloat. Sean Connery is perfect in any commanding role. The thrills in this film come fast and hard, though not as fast and hard as in CRIMSON TIDE (in my humble opinion). And even during a time when the Cold War is just a brief distant memory, the political tensions between the U.S. and Russia and the actions that could lead to nuclear war are valid enough on screen to keep the view gripped and get them wondering which side is going to flinch first during a game of "undersea chicken". It also occurred to me that a high-tech political thriller such as this contains very complex and technical dialogue, which I confess, I find very entertaining to listen to. Perhaps it's my tiny brain concluding that complex dialogue just sound more intelligent to my ears. Who knows.

As I mentioned earlier, 1990 was a bad year for this writer. But as a temporary mild distraction, THE HUNT FOR RED OCTOBER kicked things off in the movie theater to a pretty decent start.

Favorite line or dialogue:

Skip Tyler: "When I was twelve, I helped my daddy build a bomb shelter in our basement because some fool parked a dozen warheads 90 miles off the coast of Florida. This thing could park a coupla hundred warheads off Washington and New York and no one would know anything about it till it was all over."


  1. A great film that would raise the spirits of most film goers so it sounds like it was good medicine for you. The cast of this movie is incredible. It just keeps going and going. I love Scott Glenn as the American Sub Captain, perfect casting. Connery's Toupee should have gotten a nomination for best supporting actor. The music tips the scale somewhat in favor of Red October but Crimson Tide features Hackman and Washington. How do I choose?

  2. THE HUNT FOR RED OCTOBER, CRIMSON TIDE and DAS BOOT and RUN SILENT, RUN DEEP are four titles that really stand out in my mind as extraordinary submarine films. They make others like ICE STATION ZEBRA, U-571 and K19: THE WIDOWMAKER less memorable.