The Hunt for Red October (film)

The Hunt for Red October (film)

Infobox Film
name = The Hunt for Red October

image_size = 215px
caption = theatrical poster
director = John McTiernan
producer = Mace Neufeld
writer = Screenplay:
Larry Ferguson
Donald Stewart
Tom Clancy
narrator =
starring = Sean Connery
Alec Baldwin
Scott Glenn
Sam Neill
James Earl Jones
music = Basil Poledouris
cinematography = Jan de Bont
editing = Dennis Virkler
John Wright
distributor = Paramount Pictures
released = 2 March fy|1990
runtime = 134 minutes
country = FilmUS
language = English
budget = $30,000,000 "(est.)"
gross = Worldwide:
followed_by = "Patriot Games"
imdb_id = 0099810

"The Hunt for Red October" is a fy|1990 film based on the best-selling novel of the same name by Tom Clancy. It was directed by John McTiernan and stars Sean Connery as Captain Marko Ramius and Alec Baldwin as Jack Ryan.

"The Hunt for Red October" received negative critical reviews from many major publications upon its theatrical release but was one of the top grossing movies of the year, grossing $122 million in North America and $200 million worldwide. The film won the Academy Award for Sound Editing in 1991.


Marko Ramius, a Lithuanian, is captain of the Soviet Union's newest Typhoon class ballistic missile submarine, the "Red October", equipped with a revolutionary silent propulsion system known as a caterpillar drive. A naval veteran with nearly 40 years of experience, he is considered the best officer in the Soviet Navy, has taken out the lead boats for the new submarine classes, trained most of the Officer Corps, and has good political connections through his late wife. At the start of the movie, he is shown taking the boat out to sea, ostensibly for its first exercise with other units of the Russian Fleet. The captain, however, has another plan—to navigate the submarine to the coast of America in order to defect.

To achieve this, he must murder his political officer, who alone amongst his officers was not hand-picked in support of this action. After this is done, he reads substitute orders to his crew to support the mission (stating they will conduct missile drills off the coast of New York City and then sail to Havana for shore leave), and begins his long journey. He is at first discovered and tracked by the "USS Dallas", an American attack submarine, but upon activation of the caterpillar drive he is able to break away. Meanwhile, Soviet authorities read a letter posted by Ramius prior to his departure, announcing his intention to defect. The Soviet Navy immediately puts to sea to locate and sink the "Red October". One of the ships that joins in the hunt is the Alfa class attack submarine "V.K. Konovalov", captained by a former student of Ramius. This causes a stir in Washington, D.C. when the activity triggers a reciprocal deployment of U.S. assets, as Russian intentions are unclear.

At this point, CIA analyst Jack Ryan, who had been researching the submarine as a project, puts forth the proposition that Ramius may be defecting with the "Red October". The President's National Security Advisor, Jeffrey Pelt (Richard Jordan), suggests that Ryan go to the North Atlantic Fleet (to prevent the risk of the Soviets overhearing their radio transmissions) and somehow make contact with the submarine before the U.S. is forced to sink it as a rogue threat. At various points throughout the film, Pelt is conversing with the Soviet ambassador (Joss Ackland), who first requests American assistance to locate the "Red October", and in a subsequent meeting, is instructed to ask the President to help them find the sub and destroy it, falsely claiming that Ramius' letter declared his intention to attack the United States on his own authority. Meanwhile, "Red October" is moving through the Reykjanes Ridge when its silent drive suddenly fails; Ramius realizes that there is a saboteur onboard and must move up his original plans.

Ryan, who has arrived on the aircraft carrier "USS Enterprise" in the North Atlantic, is greeted with less than enthusiasm by the ship's captain (Daniel Davis), at least partly because, despite being a civilian, he is wearing a naval officer's uniform at the request of the CIA director, Vice-Admiral James Greer (James Earl Jones). The naval task force commander, Rear Admiral Painter (Fred Thompson), overrides the captain's objections, remarking that Ryan had been a Marine officer and a Naval Academy graduate before service-related injuries forced his medical retirement. Acceding to Ryan's request to be delivered to the attack submarine USS Dallas, which has been tracking the submarine, they put him on a helicopter which takes him to its location.

After surviving an attack from Soviet Naval Aviation, the "Red October" finishes its journey through the underwater canyon, where the "USS Dallas", through the efforts of a diligent SONAR operator, Ronald "Jonesey" Jones (Courtney B. Vance), locates it again. The arrival of Ryan forces them to break contact with the sub, whose officers have meanwhile deduced that the "Dallas" had indeed found the characteristic signature of the "Red October"'s drive, and was able to locate her.

Shortly after Ryan's arrival, the "Dallas" receives orders from the Pentagon (based on the information from the Russians) to sink the "Red October". As the boat prepares to fire, Ryan convinces the Captain of the "Dallas", Bart Mancuso (Glenn), to make contact with the "Red October" to facilitate the defection. Through use of morse code and sonar pings, the "Red October" and "Dallas" agree to head south towards the Grand Banks.

The plan goes as follows: Ramius and his Chief Engineer stage a false reactor overload to force the vessel to surface (which Ryan already predicted he would do) and as "Red October" surfaces it is confronted by a "Oliver Hazard Perry"-class frigate, and sent a morse-code message via signal lamp not to submerge, or be fired upon. Ramius keeps only the officers loyal to him on "Red October", and orders the rest of the crew off, claiming that he and the officers are going to scuttle the ship, rather than let it fall into the hands of the US. Consistent with the charade, an SH-60 Seahawk helicopter launched from the frigate fires a torpedo towards the "Red October", but Admiral Greer, on board the frigate, detonates the torpedo before it hits the submarine.

Ryan, Mancuso and Jonesey travel to the "Red October" via a DSRV and offer any support they can provide. Once Ramius realizes that he can trust them, he formally requests asylum for himself and his officers in the United States of America, which Mancuso grants. All goes well until Soviet torpedoes are heard in the water, from the "Konovalov" that has also found the "Red October". After the first torpedo is fired upon the "Red October" (it does not acquire its target because it had the incorrect ranges), Ramius orders Ryan to steer the ship directly into the second torpedo's path. Everyone else insists that Ryan not do so, but Ryan reluctantly complies. When the torpedo hits the hull, it breaks apart without detonating, and it is finally realized on both sides that the maneuver was a tactic to close the gap before the torpedo had a chance to arm.

Concurrently, the saboteur planted by the KGB or GRU, an enlisted member of the crew, ostensibly a cook, reveals himself by shooting at the captain, missing and instead fatally wounding the executive officer, Vasily Borodin (Sam Neill), along with damaging the fire control panel (leaving "Red October" unable to fire back). Ryan and Ramius go after the cook, while Mancuso takes command of the "Red October" to deal with the external threat. As Ramius predicted, the "Konovalov" fires another torpedo which arms at launch. While chasing the cook, Ramius is shot and injured leaving Ryan to search for him in the submarine's missile bay. As the cook attempts to (and nearly does) detonate one of the missiles, he is gunned down by Ryan. Meanwhile, "USS Dallas" and "Red October " make a series of evasive maneuvers, causing the torpedo to target the "Konovalov" instead and destroy it. The crew of the "Red October" who had evacuated and were on board a U.S. Navy rescue ship witnessed the explosion and believed it to be the "Red October" that had been destroyed. Ultimately the submarine finds haven in the Penobscot River in Maine, and Ryan flies home - too exhausted to consider his fear of flying as he had not had a decent night's sleep since before the film begins- with a teddy bear that he had promised for his daughter.


*Sean Connery as Captain 1st Class Marko Ramius, Commanding Officer of the "Red October"
*Alec Baldwin as Dr. Jack Ryan
*Scott Glenn as Captain Bart Mancuso, Commanding Officer of the "USS Dallas"
*Sam Neill as Captain 2nd Class Vasily Borodin, Executive Officer of the "Red October"
*James Earl Jones as Vice Admiral James Greer, CIA
*Joss Ackland as Ambassador Andrei Lysenko
*Richard Jordan as Dr. Jeffrey Pelt, National Security Advisor
*Peter Firth as Ivan Putin, Political Officer of the "Red October"
*Tim Curry as Dr. Yevgeniy Petrov, Chief Medical Officer of the "Red October"
*Ronald Guttman as Lt. Melekhin, Chief Engineer of the "Red October"
*Michael Welden as Captain-Lieutenant Grigoriy Kamarov, Navigator of the "Red October"
*Boris Krutonog as Lt. Victor Slavin, Chief Helmsman of the "Red October"
*Courtney Vance as Sonar Technician 2nd Class Ronald Jones, Sonar Technician of the "USS Dallas"
*Stellan Skarsgård as Capt. Viktor Tupolev, Commanding Officer of the "V.K. Konovalov"
*Jeffrey Jones as Skip Tyler - Naval Academy Instructor/Consultant
*Timothy Carhart as Lt. Bill Steiner
*Anthony Peck as Lt. Cmdr. "Tommy" Thompson, Executive Officer of the "USS Dallas"
*Larry Ferguson as Watson, Chief of the Boat of the "USS Dallas"
*Fred Dalton Thompson as Rear Admiral Joshua Painter, Commander of the "Enterprise" Carrier Battle Group
*Daniel Davis as Capt. Charlie Davenport, Commanding Officer of the "USS Enterprise"
*Sven-Ole Thorsen as Chief of the Boat of the "Red October"
*Gates McFadden as Dr. Caroline Ryan, M.D.


Producer Mace Neufeld optioned Tom Clancy’s novel after reading the galley proofs in February 1985. Despite the book becoming a best seller, no Hollywood studio was interested because of its content. Neufeld said, “I read some of the reports from the other studios, and the story was too complicated to understand.”cite news| last = Thomas| first = Bob| title = High-Tech Novel Took Five Years to Reach Screen| publisher = Associated Press| date = March 2, 1990| url = | accessdate =] After one and half years, he finally got a high-level executive at Paramount Pictures to read Clancy’s novel and agree to develop it into a movie.

Screenwriters Larry Ferguson and Donald Stewart worked on the screenplay while Neufeld approached the United States Navy in order to get their approval. They were initially reluctant because of the fear that top secret information or technology might be revealed. However, several admirals were fans of Clancy’s book and reasoned that the film could do for submariners what "Top Gun" did for the Navy’s jet fighter pilots. Captain Michael Sherman, director of the Navy’s western regional information office in Los Angeles, suggested changes to the script that would present the Navy in a positive light.cite news| last = Donohue| first = Cathryn| title = "Red October" Surfaces as a Movie| publisher = Washington Times| date = March 2, 1990| url =| accessdate =]

The Navy gave the filmmakers unprecedented access to their submarines, allowing them to photograph unclassified sections of "USS Chicago" and "USS Portsmouth" to use in set and prop design. Key cast and crew members took rides in subs including Alec Baldwin and Scott Glenn taking an overnight trip on the "USS Salt Lake City". Glenn, who played the commander of the "USS Dallas", trained for his role by temporarily assuming the identity of a submarine captain on board the "USS Houston" (which portrayed the "USS Dallas" in most scenes). The sub's crew all took "orders" from Glenn, who was being prompted by the actual commanding officer. (Glenn does have military experience in real life, as a U.S. Marine.) Alec Baldwin also learned how to steer a "Los Angeles"-class submarine. Some of the extras portraying the "Dallas" crew were real-life U.S. Navy submariners, including the pilot of the DSRV, Lieutenant Commander George Billy, the actual commander of the DSRV. The actual submariners cast as extras came from submarines homeported in San Diego after it was determined that it was easier to hire real submariners rather than teach actors to how to "play" submariners. Crew members from the "USS La Jolla", including Lt. Mark Draxton, took leave to participate in filming. According to an article about the filming in Sea Classics magazine, at least two sailors from the Atlantic Fleet-based Dallas took leave and participated in the Pacific Fleet-supported filming. The crew of the "USS Houston" called their month-long filming schedule the "Hunt for Red Ops." During this time the "Houston" made over 40 emergency surfacing "blows" for rehearsal and for the cameras.

Baldwin was approached to do the film in December 1988 but he was not told for what role. Austrian actor Klaus Maria Brandauer was cast as Soviet sub commander Marko Ramius but two weeks into filming he had to quit due to a prior commitment. The producers quickly faxed a copy of the script to Sean Connery who agreed to do it. He arrived in Los Angeles on a Friday and was supposed to start filming on Monday but he requested a day to rehearse and get into the role.

Estimates for the film’s budget ranged from $30 – 50 million with much of it going to the Navy for use of their equipment and personnel. The Navy had lent out the 360-foot long fast-attack USS "Houston" (which doubled for the USS "Dallas"), the USS "Enterprise" aircraft carrier, helicopters, two frigates, and a dry-dock crew.

Filming in actual submarines was deemed impractical and so five soundstages on the Paramount backlot were used. Two 50-foot square platforms housing mock-ups of the "Red October" and the "USS Dallas" were built, standing on top of hydraulic gimbals that simulated the sub’s movements. Connery recalled, “It was very claustrophobic. There were 62 people in a very confined space, 45 feet above the stage floor. It got very hot on the sets, and I’m also prone to sea sickness. The set would tilt to 45 degrees. Very disturbing.” The veteran actor shot for four weeks and the rest of the production shot for additional months on location in Port Angeles, Washington to the waters off Los Angeles.

To keep the audience oriented, each country's submarine had its own background color scheme: Soviet submarines, such as the "Red October" and "Konovalov", had interiors done in black with silver trim. American ships, such as the "Dallas" and the aircraft carrier "Enterprise", had gray interiors (although during one scene when the "Dallas" goes to alert status, it is flooded with red light).

Early filming was done aboard the "USS Reuben James" in the area of the Juan de Fuca Strait and Puget Sound in March 1989. The ship operated out of the Coast Guard Station at Port Angeles. The SH-60B detachment from the world famous Battlecats of HSL-43 operated out of NAS Whidbey Island, after being displaced by the filmcrew.


"The Hunt for Red October" debuted in 1,225 theaters on March 2, 1990, grossing $17 million on its opening weekend, more than half its budget.cite news| last = | first = | title = "The Hunt for Red October| publisher = Box Office Mojo| date = | url =| accessdate = 2007-12-03] The film went on to gross $122 million in North America with a worldwide total of $200 million.

The film received negative critical reviews from many major publications upon its theatrical release but was one of the top grossing movies of the year. The "Washington Post"’s Hal Hinson criticized the film in his review, commenting, “Nothing much happens, at least not onscreen...There isn’t much to look at. When the action sequences finally come, the underwater images are murky and impossible to follow.” [cite news
last = Hinson
first = Hal
coauthors =
title = "Red October": Full Speed Astern
work =
pages =
language =
publisher = Washington Post
date = March 2, 1990
url =
accessdate =
] Vincent Canby in his review for the "New York Times" wrote, “Mr. McTiernan is not a subtle director. Punches are pulled constantly. The audience is told by word and soundtrack music when it should fear the worst, though the action on the screen gives the lie to such warnings.” [cite news
last = Canby
first = Vincent
coauthors =
title = Connery as Captain of a Renegade Soviet Sub
work =
pages =
language =
publisher = New York Times
date = March 2, 1990
url =
accessdate =
] "Newsweek"’s David Ansen wrote, “But it’s at the gut level that "Red October" disappoints. This smoother, impressively mounted machine is curiously ungripping. Like an overfilled kettle, it takes far too long to come to a boil.” [cite news
last = Ansen
first = David
coauthors =
title = "The Hunt for Red October"
work =
pages =
language =
publisher = Newsweek
date = March 2, 1990
url =
accessdate =
] Roger Ebert, however, called it "a skillful, efficient film that involves us in the clever and deceptive game being played." [cite news
last = Ebert
first = Roger
coauthors =
title = "The Hunt for Red October"
work =
pages =
language =
publisher = Chicago Sun-Times
date = March 2, 1990
url =
accessdate = 2007-10-25
] Nick Schager, for "Slant" magazine's review, notes, "The Hunt for Red October" is a thrilling edge-of-your-seat trifle that has admirably withstood the test of time." [cite news
last = Schager
first = Nick
coauthors =
title = "The Hunt for Red October"
work =
pages =
language =
publisher = Slant
date = 2003
url =
accessdate = 2007-10-25
] Currently, the film has a 95% rating on Rotten Tomatoes.

Differences between the book and film

While the film plot is largely the same as that of the novel, there are several differences.

In the film, the order of many events has been changed from that of the book. Certain events found in the book have been removed completely. Most notable of these deletions is the involvement of the Royal Navy, which is heavily involved in the search for "Red October". Ryan boarded the carrier HMS Invincible from the USS Kennedy via BAE Sea Harrier. Also gone is the demise of the "Politovsky", a Russian Alfa class submarine, which sinks after a reactor accident while looking for "Red October". Portrayal of intensities between the two sides are also left out, namely an aerial strike force launched by the Americans which involved a flight of A-10 Thunderbolt IIs deploying flares above the battlecruiser Kirov as a mock attack. This was in response to an incident where a Yak-38 piloted by a frustrated Russian fired 4 atoll missiles against a pair of F-14s, damaging one and almost killing its Radar intercept officer.

Ryan's boarding of the "USS Dallas", and thus becoming directly involved in the interaction between the "Dallas" and the "Red October" prior to the "Red October"'s evacuation, is an invention of the film. In the book, Ryan is still aboard the HMS Invincible during these events. The filmmakers didn't believe this would translate well to film, since the important action of the film takes place aboard the submarines. Without Ryan aboard the "Dallas", the ostensible star of the film would have been off screen for a significant portion of the movie's action.

Ramius' motivation for defecting in the film were different than those of the novel. The book describes Ramius' desire to avenge the death of his wife, who died of a ruptured appendix due to inadequate treatment from the state-run health care system and from a doctor within it who had been drinking. The doctor, through personal connections to high party officials, was able to escape punishment. In addition, Ramius is described as having a grudge against the Party for their management of the Soviet Navy: by saddling Soviet ships with a political officer and failing to provide crews with adequate training and opportunities for advancement, Ramius feels that the Party is hampering their fleet's performance (Ramius naturally approves of the American model). The film mentions the death of Ramius' wife, but there is no mention of the Party management of the Soviet Navy. The film also paints Ramius' motives with a more altruistic brush: by having Ramius invoke Robert Oppenheimer's famous quotation of the Bhagavad-Gita ("I am become death, the destroyer of worlds"), and by describing the "Red October" as "a ship that had but one use," the film strongly suggests that Ramius defected to prevent an untrustworthy Soviet government (and an even more reckless captain) from using the "Red October" to launch a first strike on the United States.

The creative thinking of the character Jack Ryan is significantly increased in the film version. While in both the book and the film it is Ryan who correctly deduces that Ramius' intent is to defect with the submarine, in the book it is Skip Tyler, a former sub driver, who comes up with the idea of faking a reactor accident on "Red October" in order to get the crew off. Also, in the novel the decommissioned submarine USS "Ethan Allen" is detonated and the wreckage used to convince the Russians that the Red October has been sunk. In the film, the Russians are told that the wreck of the "Konovalov" was that of the "Red October", leaving them to search for yet another missing submarine.

ee also

*Submarine films


External links


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