Starring: Sean Connery, Alec Baldwin, Scott Glenn
Director: John McTiernan
Running Time: 135 mins
The Hunt For Red October is an American film about a rogue Soviet submarine captain hoping to defect to the United States, who must rely on the nous of a CIA analyst to help him and the world escape a deadly naval conflict.
A cagey political thriller that you might not expect from its blockbuster billing, The Hunt For Red October is a gripping watch, and a film that isn’t afraid to take things slowly to build the greatest excitement possible. While not a constant nail-biter, The Hunt For Red October counts on cleverly-executed tension and enthralling political themes throughout, bolstered by a committed and magnetic cast of A-list stars.
Let’s start with the film’s historical context. Set right at the end of the Cold War, The Hunt For Red October is a film that’s more than willing to play with the classic themes of good and bad in the USA’s icy battle with the Soviet Union. While the movie still has many of the tropes that make for a great Cold War movie, this is much different from what you expect from the genre.
That’s most evident in the portrayal of the Soviet submarine captain Ramius, played by Sean Connery. Despite no seeming attempt to nail a Russian accent, unlike some of his co-stars, Connery is the perfect fit for the role, turning the archetypal Soviet villain into a surprisingly likable hero, albeit not without a dark streak.
Pitted against the arguably more clinical CIA analyst in Alec Baldwin’s Jack Ryan, Sean Connery absolutely makes this movie. Not only does he fit the bill as a powerful, calculating figure in the Soviet navy, but his charisma and down-to-earth on-screen style makes his efforts to defect seem every bit as genuine as those supporting him believe.
While suspicion and threats of an ambush abound in the midst of the Cold War context, this is one of those few films where Hollywood really gets you to support a Soviet military figure, and Connery pulls it off expertly.
However, things aren’t quite as simple as that, and that’s where The Hunt For Red October’s more patient pacing and cagey atmosphere come into play. Though not quite the rollercoaster of Thirteen Days or the terrifying premonition of Fail-Safe, The Hunt For Red October provides a gripping and consistently unnerving portrayal of just how close one incident between the US and USSR could bring the world to all-out war.
Even in the conflict’s dying years, desperation and suspicion on both sides leaves every decision potentially holding the fate of the world in its hands. With that, and with the film’s constant suspense, you’ll spend more than enough of The Hunt For Red October on the edge of your seat.
Perhaps a few more bursts of conflict would have heightened the stakes and intensity in this case, but there’s no denying that this is an impressive and measured way to go about a Cold War thriller, which makes for a memorable and thoroughly gripping watch. So, that’s why I’m giving The Hunt For Red October a 7.5 overall.