The Hunt for Red October (1990)
March 8, 2015 11:10 AM - Subscribe

In 1984, the USSR's best submarine captain in their newest sub violates orders and heads for the USA. Is he trying to defect, or to start a war?

Released 25 years ago this week, The Hunt for Red October is based on the novel of the same name by technothriller author Tom Clancy.

"The Hunt For Red October,” which came out 25 years ago this week, was the culmination of an extraordinary run by director John McTiernan, beginning with “Predator” and “Die Hard”

Sean Connery, cast in the role of Marko Ramius after Klaus Maria Brandauer broke his leg.

Alec Baldwin, the first actor to play Jack Ryan, got the role after Kevin Costner and Harrison Ford both turned down the opportunity. Ford went on to play Jack Ryan in Patriot Games and Clear and Present Danger, while Costner has a role in the Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit film.

Also starring Scott Glenn, Sam Neill, James Earl Jones, Tim Curry, Fred Dalton Thompson, and Daniel Davis (who would go on to play Moriarty to Data's Holmes on Star Trek: The Next Generation).

There are only three credited female speaking roles: Gates McFadden as Cathy Ryan, Louise Borras as Sally Ryan, and Denise E. James as the stewardess. All three have delivered their lines and are done with their roles before the opening credits have finished.

Critical reaction:

Rolling Stone: Though Hunt shows fitful signs of life, it lacks the human drama of Das Boot, the technical dazzle of The Abyss and the old-fashioned brio of Run Silent, Run Deep. Even more unsettling, a disclaimer at the start of the film reminds us that the story took place before Gorbachev. Fair enough. But whatever the historical perspective, we're still watching a better-dead-than-red movie in the era of glasnost and perestroika. Like Top Gun before it, Hunt is tub thumping for a strong defense capability. If the plodding exposition doesn't get you first, the propaganda will. The only sensible reaction can be summed up in one word: Mayday.

Roger Ebert: McTiernan, whose previous films were "Predator" and "Die Hard," showed a sense of style and timing in those movies, but what he adds in "The Hunt for Red October" is something of the same detached intelligence that Clancy brought to the novel. Somehow we feel this is more than a thriller, it's an exercise in military and diplomatic strategy in which the players are all smart enough that we can't take their actions for granted.

LA Times: It is rather a lot to swallow, which is why one casts Connery, whose presence can persuade audiences that preposterous action is as real as potatoes. Works every time. Without even a fleshed-out story of his wife's death for motivation, looking Russian and speaking in his splendid Scots burr, Connery can still lead us anywhere and we go uncomplainingly.

Chicago Tribune: There is no real friction in "The Hunt for Red October," only the sense of a smoothly functioning meritocracy in which everyone gets the promotion he deserves and the raise he works for. Ryan's triumph is that of a man who has successfully negotiated an uncontested takeover.
posted by nubs (22 comments total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Coincidentally, I checked this out from the library yesterday. Looking forward to what everyone has to say about it!
posted by 2ht at 12:49 PM on March 8, 2015

McTernan does a good job of dramatizing flashes of insight and other intellectual phenomena. Not your typical action director, but one of the best.

I always thought the lack of female roles in this film was a reactionary, jingoistic choice. Now I see it as a bit more subtle. Everyone in this film exists only because of the sufferance of the sea and the ships on her.
posted by infinitewindow at 2:29 PM on March 8, 2015 [2 favorites]

The music was composed by Basil Poledouris, who had a varied career.

You will of course recognize The Hymn to Red October and Chopper[MP3], but also Klendathu Drop[MP3] from Starship Troopers, and the main themes from Lonesome Dove[MP3] and Red Dawn[MP3], and Robocop.

Conan the Barbarian was his big break. Just listen to that intro.
posted by the man of twists and turns at 7:11 PM on March 8, 2015 [2 favorites]

I would not at all be surprised to one day see a Molodoy Ramius film about his youth, including learning to speak English in Scotland.
posted by juiceCake at 10:45 PM on March 8, 2015 [5 favorites]

"So, like Beethoven on the computer, you have laboured to produce... a biologic."
posted by joseph conrad is fully awesome at 9:09 AM on March 9, 2015 [2 favorites]

Your conclushions were all wrong, Ryan!
posted by Chrysostom at 10:23 AM on March 9, 2015 [2 favorites]

I said all back full!
posted by mountmccabe at 11:38 AM on March 9, 2015 [1 favorite]

Tim Curry's puppy-dog-eyed delivery of "You'll get the Order of Lenin for this" is my favorite.
posted by whuppy at 12:21 PM on March 9, 2015 [4 favorites]

I like to say, "" any time it's even remotely relevant. For some reason, I love this movie and will always love this movie, and I will watch it anytime anybody suggests watching it or confesses they haven't seen it.
posted by not that girl at 2:51 PM on March 9, 2015 [8 favorites]

This movie has one of my favorite bits of filming magic, where they switch from Russian to English so seamlessly that you hardly even notice.

The first time I watched this (two years ago) it took me at least a solid 5 minutes of English speaking before I realized...hey wait a minute, when did that happen!
posted by phunniemee at 3:13 PM on March 9, 2015 [6 favorites]

More seriously, I like this movie. Connery is great in it. Baldwin doesn't drop the ball. It's got some great moments, especially, "No, because he always goes to starboard in the bottom half of the hour."

The thing is, somewhere in the movie making process they elided the parts of the novel that made it into a really great story. It's been at least 25 years since I read Red October, so I'm a little hazy on what was left out that would have improved the movie. Maybe the part where the crews bond before the final battle? The perfunctory bonding after the death of Vasili during the duel with the Konovalov just doesn't quite provide the right motivation for Ryan to feel the way he seems to towards Ramius.
posted by ob1quixote at 12:46 AM on March 10, 2015

I have not read Red October since the 90s either but I can only think of it as very close to the book after what happened to Patriot Games and Clear and Present Danger.

Teenage me was upset that the film series chose to take PG as a sequel to RO rather than the other way around as in the novels. They messed with the ending but it fit with the modifications to the characters of Jack Ryan and Sean Miller; the stunt Jack Ryan pulls in the movie would not have worked on the Sean Miller of the book.

But at least PG could still more or less be considered to be based on the novel. The movie Clear and Present Danger is one of the least faithful adaptations I've ever borne witness to; every change was a travesty.

Huh, and I thought I was entirely over my Tom Clancy-related feels.

At any rate the film The Hunt for Red October feels unrelated to what came after, and not just because the Jack Ryan changed. It feels full; this world has a history we don't see but it is hinted at and referred to enough that we get it.
posted by mountmccabe at 9:43 AM on March 10, 2015 [1 favorite]

This movie has one of my favorite bits of filming magic, where they switch from Russian to English so seamlessly that you hardly even notice.

And they switch on the word Apocalypse, which is a word in both languages, albeit with different pronunciations.
posted by nubs at 12:59 PM on March 10, 2015 [9 favorites]

omg that's even cooler
posted by phunniemee at 1:09 PM on March 10, 2015 [2 favorites]

they switch on the word Apocalypse

"Armageddon", if memory serves.

And the seventh angel brought forth his ....
posted by stebulus at 5:32 PM on March 13, 2015

And, also if memory serves, McTiernan says in a DVD commentary that he stole that language-changing idea from somewhere else.
posted by stebulus at 5:48 PM on March 13, 2015

Apocalypse, Armaggedon, Let's call the whole thing off?

(I'm pretty sure you're right)
posted by nubs at 8:43 AM on March 14, 2015 [2 favorites]

Watching this tonight with my ten year old. This movie is right up there as one I'll watch any damn time it's on. Courtney B. Vance! Scott Glenn! Alec Baldwin's hair! Next, the most recent season of the Americans. ALSO FRED THOMSON YOU POLITICALLY HIDEOUS CHARACTER ACTING MOTHERFUCKER
posted by chesty_a_arthur at 5:43 PM on August 12, 2017

It was that acting of Fred Thompson in this film that got him traction. He played the role so much better than living it.
posted by jadepearl at 6:33 PM on July 2, 2018

I just realized that someone wearing the same Cook's Assistant uniform as the spy Loginov is in the background of the famous dinner scene where Ramius tells the officers he's informed Pedorin of his plan to defect.
The cook isn't in the room, obviously, but that's a good place to plant - close to the officers, but not really noticeable.
posted by the man of twists and turns at 8:58 AM on July 24, 2019

For what it aims to be, it is a flawless film.
posted by gwint at 8:26 PM on September 19

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