The Hunt for Red October is a 1990 espionage thriller directed by John McTiernan. Based on the popular Tom Clancy novel, the film tracks Soviet submarine captain Marko Ramius (Sean Connery) and his crew in the brand new, state of the art submarine called the Red October. The Red October is equipped with innovative stealth technology, making it virtually impossible to detect on regular sonar. After disregarding orders from the Soviet Union, Marko Ramius takes autonomous command of the submarine and drives it towards the United States for unknown reasons. CIA agent Jack Ryan (Alec Baldwin) is sent out to determine Ramius’ true intentions, fearing that he launch an attack on the United States.
The Hunt for Red October is a different type of blockbuster. This is the single biggest praise I can give this film. There is no fist fighting, gun battles, car chases or massive explosions that you have come to expect of films of this genre. Instead, most of the “action” takes place under the water and is along the lines of naval commanders barking out orders to their crew, leading to their vessels changing course or launching torpedoes at other submarines. If you’re the sort of person who appreciates strategy or complex naval tactics then this is the film for you. On the other hand, if you’re the person who looks for grand action spectacles (along the lines of what I said above) then this movie is probably not for you.
The thing about The Hunt for Red October is that it is attempting to forge a sort of niche within the action/adventure genre. This film is slow paced at the start and takes its sweet time to explain the situation at hand. There is a lot of technical jargon that one must be prepared to listen to before delving into the more suspenseful moments of the film. In addition, the “suspenseful moments” that I am talking about mostly involve people inside closed rooms giving out orders. There was only one action sequence near the end that involved a brief 5 minute gun chase inside a submarine. But aside from this, this movie lacks any gripping or memorable action set pieces.
The vibe I got from this film was that it was trying to be the 90s version of Jaws. Like Jaws, it relies on its characters and their backstories to deliver a memorable storyline. Like in Jaws where we only briefly get to see the shark, in this film we only briefly get to see ‘The Red October’. But the difference between these two films are their characters. While the performances in The Hunt for Red October were fine across the board, I couldn’t relate to or appreciate the hardships/motivations of the characters as much as I did in Jaws. This is my real biggest problem with this movie. This alongside the CGI. There was some god awful CGI on display here. Whenever the camera cut to showing the submarine under water, I couldn’t help but think that this was the work of an amateur student filmmaker experimenting with new computer software. There was also a scene near the end with Alec Baldwin and Sean Connery shot in the night that was the most lazy use of green screen in recent cinema I have seen since the Star Wars prequels.
The Hunt for Red October is a pretentious film. It attempts to forge a new niche in the traditional action/adventure genre to no good end. While the performances were fine across the board, I could not relate to or like any of the characters as much as I wanted to. The film was also too slow paced for my liking and lacked a standout action set piece that would’ve elevated the overall content. The biggest praise I can give this movie is that it tried.