The Hunt for Red October is a 1990 American submarine spy-thriller film directed by John McTiernan, produced by Mace Neufeld, and starring Sean Connery, Alec Baldwin, Scott Glenn, James Earl Jones, and Sam Neill.
The film is an adaptation of Tom Clancy’s 1984 bestselling novel of the same name.
It is the first instalment of the Jack Ryan film series.
The story is set during the late Cold War era and involves a rogue Soviet naval captain who wishes to defect to the United States with his officers and the Soviet Navy’s newest and most advanced nuclear missile submarine, a fictional improvement on the Soviet ICBM capable Typhoon class submarine. A CIA analyst correctly deduces his motive and must prove his theory to the US Navy before a violent confrontation between the Soviet and the American navies spirals out of control.
In November 1984, Soviet submarine captain Marko Ramius is given command of Red October, a new Typhoon-class nuclear missile submarine with a stealth “caterpillar drive”, rendering it undetectable to passive sonar. Ramius leaves port to conduct exercises along with attack submarine V. K. Konovalov which is depicted as a Alfa Class Submarine, commanded by his former student Captain Tupolev. Once at sea, Ramius secretly kills political officer Ivan Putin and relays false orders that they are to conduct missile drills off America’s east coast. At the same time, American attack submarine USS Dallas, tasked with identifying and shadowing Soviet subs as they leave port, detects Red October as it begins its mission, but immediately loses contact once the sub’s caterpillar drive is engaged.
The next morning, CIA analyst and former Marine, Jack Ryan, after consulting with Vice Admiral James Greer, briefs government officials on Red October and the threat it poses. The US fears Ramius plans a renegade nuclear strike. They also learn that the bulk of the Soviet Navy has been deployed to the Atlantic to find and sink the sub. During the briefing, Ryan hypothesises that Ramius instead plans to defect, and National Security Advisor Jeffrey Pelt gives Ryan three days to confirm his theory and is sent to an aircraft carrier in the mid-Atlantic. Meanwhile, after some delay, Tupolev also receives orders to intercept and destroy Red October.
Due to the actions of an unknown saboteur, Red October’s caterpillar drive malfunctions during risky manoeuvres through a narrow undersea canyon. Petty Officer Jones, a sonar technician aboard Dallas, has discovered a way to detect Red October using his underwater acoustics software, and Dallas plots their own intercept course. Ryan arranges a hazardous mid-ocean rendezvous to board Dallas, where he attempts to persuade its captain, Commander Bart Mancuso, to contact Ramius and determine his intentions.
The Soviet ambassador informs the U.S. government that Ramius is a renegade, and asks for help in sinking Red October. That order is sent to the U.S. fleet, including Dallas, which has found the Soviet sub. Ryan, however, is convinced that Ramius plans to defect with his officers and convinces Mancuso to contact Ramius and offer assistance. Ramius, stunned that the Americans correctly guessed his plan, accepts. He then stages a nuclear reactor “emergency”, ordering his crew to abandon ship. After a U.S. frigate is spotted, Ramius submerges. Meanwhile, Ryan, Mancuso, and Jones come aboard via a rescue sub, at which point Ramius requests asylum for himself and his officers.
Red October is suddenly attacked by V. K. Konovalov. As the two Soviet subs manoeuvre, one of Red October’s cooks, Loginov, an undercover GRU agent and the secret saboteur, opens fire on the bridge, fatally wounding first officer Vasily Borodin before retreating to the nuclear missile bay. Ryan and Ramius pursue him, and Loginov wounds Ramius in the shoulder, but Ryan kills Loginov before he can detonate a missile. Meanwhile, Red October makes evasive manoeuvres with a diversion provided by Dallas, causing V. K. Konovalov to be destroyed by its own fired torpedo. The crew of Red October, now rescued, watch the explosion from the deck of the U.S. frigate; unaware of the second Soviet submarine, they believe that Ramius has sacrificed himself and scuttled Red October to avoid being boarded.
Ryan and Ramius, their subterfuge complete, navigate Red October to the Penobscot River in Maine. Ramius admits that the reason he defected was that after he was handed the plans for Red October, a nuclear war first strike weapon, he concluded that he could never support such an action. From atop the submarine’s sail deck, Ramius, pleased to have made it to America, offers Ryan a (fictional) quote from Christopher Columbus: “And the sea will grant each man new hope; his sleep brings dreams of home.” Ryan nods in agreement and offers in return, “Welcome to the New World, sir.”
- The film was a co-production between the motion picture studios Paramount Pictures, Mace Neufeld Productions, and Nina Saxon Film Design.
- Theatrically, it was commercially distributed by Paramount Pictures and by the Paramount Home Entertainment division for home media markets.
- Following its wide theatrical release, the film was nominated for and won a number of accolades. At the 63rd Academy Awards, the film was honoured with the Academy Award for Best Sound Editing, along with nominations for Best Sound Mixing and Best Film Editing.
- On 12 June 1990, the original soundtrack, composed and conducted by Basil Poledouris, was released by MCA Records.
- The Hunt for Red October received mostly positive reviews from critics and was the 6th top-grossing domestic film of the year, generating $122 million in North America and more than $200 million worldwide in box office business.
- The film was the first of five Paramount films highlighting the fictional character Jack Ryan, here played by Alec Baldwin, and played in the other films by Harrison Ford (twice), Ben Affleck and Chris Pine.
Production & Filming Details
- Director(s): John McTiernan.
- Producer(s): Mace Neufeld.
- Writer(s): Larry Ferguson and Donald E. Stewart.
- Music: Basil Poledouris.
- Cinematography: Jan de Bont.
- Editor(s): Dennis Virkler and John Wright.
- Production: Mace Neufeld Productions and Nina Saxon Film Design.
- Distributor(s): Paramount Pictures.
- Release Date: 02 March 1990.
- Running Time: 135 minutes.
- Country: US.
- Language: English and Russian.