Tom Clancy’s techno-thriller, which I remember reading back in grade 9, when my friend Michael introduced me to it and after that, every Christmas until I 1989, I would receive Clancy’s new novel in hardcover for Christmas, was put to film by John McTiernan. Coming off of the incredible run of success that Predator and Die Hard had given for him, McTiernan turned his eye to the bringing Jack Ryan to the screen.
Alec Baldwin plays the incarnation of CIA analyst Ryan in this entry on the 101 Action Movies list, but it is Sean Connery who delivers the stand out performance.
I love this film – this was one of the movies that I would put on all the time when I was working in a video store, its dialogue heavy, and I would just wander around delivering the lines in time, and working on my Sean Connery impersonation (see the Ladies of Seed episode of The Mind Reels for THAT!).
Jack is called from his home in London, where he lives with his wife (Gates McFadden – the only woman in the movie but for a stewardess with any lines!), back to Virgina, and the CIA when a new submarine that can run virtually silent is launched from Russia under the command of Marko Ramius (Connery).
Ryan is called in to figure out Ramius’ motivations as he captains the Red October into the Atlantic and completely disappears… is he defecting? Is he starting World War III?
The cast is packed with familiar faces, Sam Neill, James Earl Jones, Scott Glenn, Timothy Carhart, Richard Jordan, Joss Ackland, Tim Curry and Stellan Skarsgard, and each of them is given their moment.
In fact, after Jurassic Park, I think this is my favorite role for Sam Neill, playing Ramius’ friend Vasili Borodin, he’s kind of quiet and reserved, and the scene he shares with Connery during the Crazy Ivan is one of my favorites.
As both American and Russian forces rush to find Red October before the other, politics are played out behind the scenes as Ryan presents his info to the Security Council and ends up having to go out into the field to prove his theory.
The claustrophobic environments of the submarines help to raise the tension throughout the film, which keeps building until the final showdown with the Red October, with Ryan trying to stop a missile launch that would plunge the world into war.
All of it is underscored by Basil Poledouris’ stirring music and choral a soundtrack that got a lot of play on my walkman when I finally tracked one down! (soundtrack that is not a walkman).
Scott Glenn’s Mancuso (my fave role for him outside of Silverado and The Right Stuff) and Connery’s Ramius are perfect mirrors of one another, calm and smart commanders who can think, and out think their enemies.
The Thor’s Twins sequence is wonderfully fantastic, the way the dialogue cracks, as orders are given, tensions rise, and at the center of it, maintaining his own count, and inner map, Ramius, quietly giving orders, and outmaneuvering his pursuers. Brilliant.
This is a film that in the wrong hands could have come off as cheap, and hokey, but the effects work (the Red October sub was filmed on a smoke-filled stage, and was never filmed in water) is top-notch, the actors all bring their A-game, and the details and the tech all have the ring off authenticity.
This is one of my favorite submarine movies of all time, along with Das Boot…
How about you?