Before Ben Affleck and Harrison Ford, Alec Baldwin starred as C.I.A. stud Jack Ryan in John McTiernan’s Cold War submarine thriller The Hunt for Red October. The actor’s unbridled eagerness oozes out of every pore and he turns in a credible performance as Tom Clancy’s diplomatic hero, using his clean-cut good looks and narcissistic charisma to play a man whose inexperience is no match for his swagger, fearlessness, and unflappable certitude. Unlike subsequent Ryan adventures, Red October casts Ryan as a secondary figure struggling to help the film’s genuine protagonist—Sean Connery’s renegade Russian sub captain Marko Ramius—escape the quandary he’s made for himself and his crew. The renowned naval veteran Ramius (who, in a strange twist, has a decidedly Scottish accent) has been given the keys to the Red October, the USSR’s top-secret underwater vessel that can travel undetected by sonar and is equipped with a daunting bounty of nuclear warheads. Disgusted by the thought of his motherland using the Red October in a pre-emptive strike against the United States, Ramuis and his crew steal the ship during a training run and head for the East Coast of the US, where they plan to defect. Not surprisingly, the Soviets give chase in hopes of destroying the ship before it falls into enemy hands, while the Americans plan to defend their soil against what they perceive to be a madman with nukes heading straight for their shore. In 1990, director McTiernan was at the height of his action film prowess and demonstrates here a knack for orchestrating taut set pieces, explosions, and gunfire. The film’s central fear of superpowers engaging in nuclear war, while seemingly quaint in light of today’s more insidious terrorist threats, has added resonance given recent revelations about the USSR’s Cold War designs to annihilate us. Politics aside, however, The Hunt for Red October is a thrilling edge-of-your-seat trifle that has admirably withstood the test of time.
- John McTiernan
- Larry Ferguson, Donald Stewart
- Sean Connery, Alec Baldwin, Scott Glenn, Sam Neill, James Earl Jones, Joss Ackland, Richard Jordan, Peter Firth, Tim Curry, Courtney B. Vance, Stellan Skarsgård, Jeffrey Jones
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