I figured it was time for me to critique an action movie. The Hunt for Red October was one of those movies I have always heard about but never seen until now. And I’m not quite sure why NetFlix listed it as an action film because honestly most of the action was “Fire the torpedo!”, “Torpedo closing at ten, nine, eight…” For me, not the most heart pounding tension.
The Hunt for Red October, directed by John McTiernan, was released in 1990 to for the most part a positive reception. This might have had something to do with the fact the Soviet Union had just ended and the movie was about the Cold War and it gave Americans just another opportunity to point over the Atlantic and laugh, but I’m not sure. After all, I was in my mother’s womb at the time. Anyway, Captain Remius (Sean Connery) is in command of the Red October, a new Soviet submarine that has the capability to be undetectable by sonar. Remius decides to disregard his orders and instead head to the United States to defect, or for those of you who like me do not understand military jargon, abandon the Soviet cause. The Soviet Union tells the United States that Remius has gone rogue in an attempt to get the United States to destroy Red October before Remius can succeed in defecting. However, CIA analyst Jack Ryan (Alec Baldwin) guesses Remius’s intentions. Ryan has to find a way to persuade everyone around him about Remius’s defection, and then get in contact with him. Remius has to get to America alive with both Americans and Soviets on his tail and while an unknown saboteur threatens his submarine.
There were some really good things about this movie, even though I was confused a lot of the time, but I blame that on my own inexperience with action movies anyway. The best thing about this movie was its cast. Honestly, if Sean Connery had not been cast as Remius, I don’t know if it would have done near as well. He was the perfect choice. Whether or not he beats women, he’s still a phenomenal actor. On top of that this movie also has great actors like James Earl Jones and Tim Curry (whom I love despite his involvement in the Rocky Horror Picture Show). And though I don’t usually think of him as a great actor, I have to talk about Alec Baldwin as one of the main characters. I knew Alec Baldwin was in this movie. I knew he was one of the main characters. But when I saw him on screen, I honestly thought, “No, that can’t be him.” He looks very different 20 years ago, and somehow doesn’t instantly come off as a douche.
The writing is also pretty good at some points. There is a beautiful scene in which Remius is talking to his first officer, Vasily Boridin (Sam Neil) about what they will do when they get to America. It’s a great moment of character development. For the first time you see these characters as men, not Soviets, not military. They’re just men trying to survive in a horrible situation.
But I did have some problems with this movie. I thought the language issue was handled in a very sloppy way. I understand that movies involving people with multiple languages have hard choices to make. Do you want a significant character talking through subtitles the entire time? Having Soviet sailors speak Russian is more realistic, but the audience loses a lot of the performance if this method is utilized in significant amounts. So the other way directors can deal with the problem is just have the audience suspend belief and have the characters all speak English. McTiernan unexpectedly uses both tactics. The first ten minutes of the movie, the Soviets speak Russian with English subtitles. Then, in a very arbitrary location of the plot, it’s as if a switch goes off and everyone is suddenly speaking English. I would probably be okay with it if just the officers were speaking English, but every sailor on Red October seems to have been educated enough to know English fluently. I’m not buying it. I’m not saying I would prefer half the movie to be in subtitles. I think it would have been better if the Soviets were just speaking English from the beginning, so that the absurd “switch flipping” moment doesn’t happen.
Also, at the climax of the film, the audience discovers that the cook was the saboteur of Red October. Gasp! Well, actually, it is not much of a gasp because until that point the audience has never met the cook. He’s a nobody. Because of that, the audience does not feel betrayed. When I was watching it, I went “Meh.” It would have been a much more powerful moment if a significant character, like the Doctor (Tim Curry) or even Remius’s first officer was revealed as the saboteur. Then the audience could really connect more with what’s going on and scream “Why did the cool guy from Jurassic Park have to betray James Bond? That is just not cool!” like this moment deserves.
I’m not a huge action movie fan, but I did enjoy this one more than I thought I would. I give it a 6 out of 10.