The Hunt for Red October (1990)

the hunt for red october IMDb

The Hunt for Red October does a great job of casting non-Russian actors as Soviet submarine officers. I don’t think any of the main characters are actually from Russia. There’s a Swede (Stellen Skarsgard), a Brit (Tim Curry), a Kiwi (Sam Neill), and of course a Scot in the lead role (Sean Connery). This doesn’t completely undermine the credibility of the film, it’s just funny to think that this sort of casting still occurs.

I have no previous knowledge of the Jack Ryan character. I had watched Red October once years ago, but didn’t realize it was the beginning of a franchise or based on a book. To be honest, I was pretty confused as to what was happening. I don’t think I was watching all that closely at the time, because I wasn’t really interested. I’m still not, but I can appreciate how great elements of this film are.

Red October is a Cold War political thriller about a Soviet submarine captain (Connery) who intends on defecting once he reaches the United States. The plot leans to the complicated side, but if you pay attention it’s not too hard to follow. While the subject matter doesn’t interest me, there are plenty of twists and turns to keep you guessing. Some are even pretty fun to discover, and I found the ending satisfying (despite being a little far fetched).

Now, about those “Russians.” I’m not adverse to the near lack of Russian dialogue happening in the movie. Some is spoken at the beginning and end to establish the scenes, but English is substituted throughout. It was a smart move in this case, allowing the predominately English speaking audience to focus on the story rather than the subtitles. I also thought the transition from Russian to English in the opening scene was well done. I’m just not crazy about Connery’s accent. Apparently he is doing a Russian accent, but… I just don’t hear it. He still sounds too Scottish. It’s distracting and undermines the realism of the movie.

The Hunt for Red October is a good movie, it just could have been better. Sean Connery added name recognition, but he fails to fully convince the viewer that he is anything but Scottish. That said, this is still a well made film. Maybe not my cup of tea, but certainly worth a look if you’re in to political thrillers.

Rating: B-

I kind of feel bad for this movie. I was introduced to the character of Jack Ryan through Patriot Games, when he was portrayed by Harrison Ford rather than Alec Baldwin. Now I love Alec Baldwin– Jack Donaghy from 30 Rock is one of the greatest television characters ever–but Baldwin is no Harrison Ford. I also did not find the story of this book as appealing or exciting as future Jack Ryan adventures.

The plot of The Hunt for Red October centers on a Russian submarine at the height of the Cold War. Marko Ramius (Sean Connery), a top Russian commander, is planning on taking a new state of the art submarine into American waters. He intends to surrender to the Americans and defect from Russia. When the CIA notice this submarine heading toward them, they automatically think the rogue sub has more sinister intentions. The only person who thinks Ramius may be coming to them with different intentions is CIA analyst Jack Ryan (Baldwin). He has to figure out the truth before his trigger happy superiors launch an attack they will regret. Meanwhile, on the submarine, Ramius has to contend with his crew, many of whom do not agree with their orders to defect from Russia and plot to mutiny.

I have a real problem with the casting of this film. How can Sean Connery be considered anything but Scottish? Especially when he makes no effort to hide his Scottish ancestry. Complicating matters further is that his second in command is from New Zealand (Sam Neill). I can sometimes look beyond a dodgy accent (Kevin Costner in Robin Hood is a good example), but when the story is not as strong as it could be, these little things will start to irk me more than they should. Alec Baldwin is fine as Jack Ryan, although I much prefer the films with Harrison Ford. It is hard to remember a time when Baldwin wasn’t known for his comedy. There was a time when Alec Baldwin would almost exclusively be cast in thrillers like this, wasting his god given comedic timing. I find him to be so funny, and feel like he is wasted in a role like this. He is too talented at being hilarious to be seen in this run of the mill thriller.

The Hunt for Red October is an entertaining film at times, but it is let down by poor casting. Thankfully, this is rectified for future Jack Ryan films.

Rating: C+

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