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Film Review: The Hunt for Red October

Updated on December 15, 2016


In 1990, John McTiernan released The Hunt for Red October, based on the 1984 novel of the same name by Tom Clancy. Starring Sean Connery, Alec Baldwin, Scott Glenn, James Earl Jones, Sam Neill and Tim Curry, the film grossed $200.5 million at the box office.


Late in the cold war Captain Marko Ramius commands the Typhoon class missile submarine, Red October, telling his crew that they are testing the ship. However, the Soviets know of Ramius’ true intentions and send fleets to stop him, while Jack Ryan has deduced the same and works to find Ramius and the submarine.


An incredibly fantastic film, The Hunt for Red October is interesting for how it opens the film with both a literal and symbolic meaning. At first, the characters are speaking Russian, but there is a distinct lack of subtitles, but this makes the film even better as the focus could be on the story being told instead of making the viewer put all attention on reading the dialogue. It also adds to the cleverness of when the Russian’s dialogue switches from Russian to English on the word “Armageddon.” The word is the same in both languages and not having subtitles makes it so that the switch isn’t telegraphed and seems natural.

The switch being on that word is also quite symbolic as Armageddon is basically the reason Ramius is choosing to defect. When he tells the crew what their mission is, he pumps them up with a grand speech that they are fighting the same war as their fathers and grandfathers. That they are making the west quake with their silence just like they did when the Soviet Union launched Yuri Gagarin and, later, Sputnik. Yet when he’s alone with Borodin in his cabin, he reveals what he truly thinks about the Cold War, calling it one with “no monuments, no victories, only casualties.” As the captain of a nuclear submarine, he recognizes all the submarine would be good for is adding to those casualties, but he can’t tell the crew his true intentions as they’d mutiny, so when they finally do reach the Americans and the time comes to defect, he makes up a story to make them want to get off while he parlays with Jack Ryan and the higher ups on the Dallas.

However, Ramius might think too highly of himself as he tells the commanding officer of the Soviet Navy that he’s defecting. Using Cortez burning his ships as an example of the reason, it might show that he has too high an opinion of himself. Borodin even calls him out on it. On the other hand, it may be that high opinion that saves the submarine from the first missile launched by Tupolev as Ramius knows he’s just that good and uses his knowledge to have a torpedo hit the Red October before it arms itself.

Still though, as much as the film is about Ramius and Red October, the other characters are also very interesting. Jack Ryan is able to deduce that Ramius is defecting by piecing together details about who Ramius is and what’s happened in his life up until that point. And then he goes to great lengths to find the submarine, confirm his deductions, make sure Ramius defects safely and get a teddy bear for his daughter. Then there’s Jonesy, the sonar technician aboard the Dallas. He’s able to tell the difference between an American and Russian torpedo just from the sound and figure out how Red October disappeared from the sonar, which led to him calculating her most likely heading and find a way to be able to track her. Notably, what Jonesy is able to do in this film is something that radar technicians are known for doing, making the film all that more realistic.

5 stars for The Hunt for Red October

the postings on this site are my own and don't necessarily represent WNI's positions, strategies or opinion

Awards won

Academy Awards

  • Best Effects, Sound Effects Editing

BMI Film & TV Awards

  • BMI Film Music Award

Motion Picture Sound Editors, USA Golden Reel Awards

  • Best Sound Editing - ADR

Nominated for

Academy Awards

  • Best Sound
  • Best Film Editing

BAFTA Awards

  • Best Actor (Sean Connery)
  • Best Production Design
  • Best Sound

Academy of Science Fiction, Fantasy & Horror Films, USA Saturn Awards

  • Best DVD Collection (for "The Jack Ryan Special Edition DVD Collection")


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    • Film Frenzy profile image

      Jason Wheeler 3 years ago from Prescott Valley

      I'll agree to that. And I'm sure it was based on more than a few "truthful happenstances." My comment about it never happening was a reference to how it said that at the beginning of the movie.

    • frogyfish profile image

      frogyfish 3 years ago from Central United States of America

      The Hunt for Red October was one of the most suspenseful film I have ever watched. And it was surely based on a lot of 'truthful' happenstances.