The Hunt for Red October (1990)

So last night I participated in the judging of a six course gourmet food competition featuring two competing local restaurants. My brother was one of the chefs. The secret ingredient for each course was cinnamon and lavender. It was a lot like one of those Man vs. Food, cooking shows. Somewhere between the cinnamon flank steak and the German apple crumb cake with lavender ice cream I think I lost consciousness and entered a food coma. Hence missing my post yesterday. I explained to Dave my plan to jump in my brother’s Honda Civic and hit the roads at 88 miles per hour in an attempt to travel back in time. Dave quickly pointed out my lack of knowledge in a.) driving a car b.) flux capacitors and c.) the risks of altering the time space continuum. So thank Dave for allowing me to take his day and stop your brothers and sisters from disappearing in family photos.

As a fan of action films and espionage thrillers, Tom Clancy has become one of my literary idols. The man knows how to make military history and protocol both fascinating and exciting to read. His characters are classic symbols of bravery, moral code, and valor. His first major success came in 1990 with the feature film adaptation of his first best selling novel (and Reagan favorite) The Hunt for Red October. Hot off the success of Die Hard, John McTiernan directs this taught suspense thriller in which C.I.A. analyst Jack Ryan must intercept a state-of-the-art Russian sub when its commander is suspected of trying to defect. Producers feared the plot would be too difficult for audiences to follow but thanks to Larry Ferguson and Donald Stewart’s (with contributions by the great John Milius) script and Jan De Bont’s brilliantly crafted cinematography the film is absolutely riveting from start to finish. We feel truly involved in the deceptive cat and mouse game being played.

Alec Baldwin portrays the original Jack Ryan (before Harrison Ford would make the role famous, and Ben Affleck would diminish it) as the reluctant savior that Clancy originally envisioned. Baldwin is one of the most underrated actors of his time and here he becomes the quintessential everyman His character is roped into the most dire of situations because the CIA heads see him as expendable. “Next time I should just put it in a memo” almost becomes his catchphrase. Yet in the film’s climax it’s his vulnerability, innocence and blue collar sensibility that attracts the friendship of the Russian ship’s commander and diverts a global crisis.

Sean Connery stepped into the role of Russian Captain Rank Marko Ramius, the commanding officer attempting to defect, as a last minute replacement for Russian actor Klaus Maria Brandauer. Despite a lack of preparation for the role, Connery is a knockout. Intimidating one moment, conflicted the next, and badass throughout. The supporting cast includes top notch performances from Scott Glenn, James Earl Jones, Sam Neill, Tim Curry and Stellan Skarsgard.

The Hunt for Red October will forever be one of the ultimate action films of the 80s and 90s. The lighting, the production’s color palette, the pulse-pounding score, even the theatrical trailer will always be synonymous with the golden age of Hollywood action movies. I can recall watching this movie and dreaming of being a Russian Naval Officer since I was 7 years old. Along with Terminator, Lethal Weapon and Die Hard I remember it distinctly being one of the first major franchises I’ve followed.

-John

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