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An intellectual thriller of the highest caliber
on August 2, 2014
While I usually try to avoid all things Baldwin, this film is just way too good to miss. It’s hard to imagine a more compelling storyline, which centers on a preeminent Soviet submarine captain going rogue with the shiniest new toy in the Soviet arsenal – the Red October, a new Typhoon class submarine designed for the purpose of sneaking past US defenses and delivering a devastating first strike in any war between the two Cold War adversaries. No one knows what this captain is going to do – not the Soviets and not the Americans. Obviously, the greatest and most likely outcome is an attack on the eastern US that would initiate World War III. At the same time, however, there is also the possibility that Captain Marko Ramius (Sean Connery) might be trying to defect. Neither outcome is palatable to the Soviet regime, so they send the bulk of their fleet toward the North Atlantic to find and destroy the Red October. For the Americans, though, it’s not so simple. Only one thing is clear – they have to find the sub before it penetrates America’s coastal defenses and figure out what Captain Ramius is planning to do. That’s where CIA analyst Jack Ryan (Alec Baldwin) comes in.
The film’s cinematography is excellent – well, apart from what appears to me to be a rather poor green screen shot in the final scene. It can’t be easy to film the bulk of a movie within the close quarters of a submarine – granted, the Red October is pretty freakin’ huge for a sub, but it’s still a sub. Director John McTiernan may be known for blowing up everything in sight in Die Hard, but there really are no extravagant special effects in this movie. This is an intellectual thriller, where subtle hints and exercises in logic drive the story, and when all is said and done you can easily come to believe that everything you’ve seen might really have happened. Tom Clancy really was a master storyteller who took care that no loose strings were left behind.
I'm not going to compare this to other movies featuring Jack Ryan, largely because the only other one I’ve seen is The Sum of All Fears, which features another actor I don’t care for. I will say that Alec Baldwin was good in this movie. Sean Connery, of course, steals the show. His Russian accent won’t win any awards, but the stoicism and inscrutability with which he plays his character really maintains the suspense and keeps you guessing what he’s really up to for most of the movie. He’s equally believable as both a defector and a madman determined to start World War III. The supporting cast, boasting the likes of James Earl Jones, Sam Neill, Tim Curry, and Fred Thompson is top-notch, as well. And, with a running time of two hours and fifteen minutes, you truly get your money’s worth from The Hunt for Red October.