johnlink ranks THE HUNT FOR RED OCTOBER (1990)

Jumping into another series, here is the first of four Jack Ryan films. Tom Clancy’s creation was played in RED OCTOBER by Alec Baldwin, in PATRIOT GAMES and CLEAR AND PRESENT DANGER by Harrison Ford, and in THE SUM OF ALL FEARS by Ben Affleck. The character is being revitalized again for a currently untitled film starring Chris Pine with Kenneth Branagh directing and acting villainous. So now that we’ve got all that established, let’s look at the first Jack Ryan movie.

I watched THE HUNT FOR RED OCTOBER (1990) on 7.27.12. It was my fourth viewing of the film, and first in seven or eight years.

This film introduces Jack Ryan; a guy who is not an action junky, but rather a researcher thrown into an international incident. Set in 1984, Sean Connery plays Russian submarine commander Marko Ramius. Ramius quickly goes AWOL with his Russian crew and aboard a new stealth submarine. His intentions at the outset are unclear, but he has both the Russians and Americans nervous he may be headed for the American coast with his nuclear arsenal and an undetectable submarine.

The cover of the DVD shows Connery, and it is his name which appears at the top of the credits. While this is an introduction to Ryan as a character, this is a Connery vehicle first and foremost. In that sense, it is an unorthodox way to meet Jack Ryan. However, Baldwin plays the hero fairly well, and it is easy to root for him from the start.

One oddity is that this film, directed by DIE HARD’s John McTiernan, falls into a little bit of a John McClane trap. Jack Ryan, and more importantly Alec Baldwin, doesn’t seem particularly comfortable cracking  jokes as he’s being shot at by a saboteur on a submarine. McTiernan definitely tries to hijack some of his successes from DIE HARD for this film. It doesn’t quite fit. Heck, he even reuses the exact same teddy bear from DIE HARD as a little gag in RED OCTOBER. McTiernan absolutely does not ruin this film, he does more good than harm actually, but his presence is not as invisible as it should be.

I do like the way he handles the transition from Russian language to English. The first couple scenes aboard the October are in Russian. When someone begins reading from the bible, it begins is Russian. The camera zooms in on his mouth just as he hits the word “Armageddon” (a word the same in English and Russian). The camera then begins to pull out, and the rest of the passage, and the rest of the film, is then in English. The variety of accents never bothers me, because the transition into English is handled smoothly, if not subtly.

I always think of the Harrison Ford films as the ones with the gallery of stars. But this first feature has a hell of a cast itself. Connery and Baldwin take the top roles, of course, and both are effective. Sam Neill plays Connery’s XO, and is the only one on the sub able to question Connery. James Earl Jones plays Admiral Greer, the only actor who returns for the Ford films. Scott Glenn captains the American boat hunting the Red October, and is excellent in a mostly thankless role. In smaller roles, Fred Thompson plays another Admiral, Tim Curry plays a Russian doctor, and Stellan Skarsgard has a cameo as a second Russian sub commander who is also hunting down Connery. The acting overall is very solid.

I like the script. It doesn’t talk down to us, and asks us to keep up with a lot of technical jargon. While the computers feel archaic, and a couple of special effects shots are weak, this isn’t a movie which feels dated. Most of that is thanks to a script which focuses on the drama at hand, rather than being a generic action vehicle. While the Ford entries as Jack Ryan are more intense and better all-around experiences, THE HUNT FOR RED OCTOBER is successful in its own way. The submarine genre isn’t one that is easy to shoot, or easy to make spectacular. And while this movie isn’t awesome, it decently watchable, well acted, and solidly done.






~ by johnlink00 on July 28, 2012.

One Response to “johnlink ranks THE HUNT FOR RED OCTOBER (1990)”

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