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The Hunt For Red October (DVD)
Member Name: wampyrii
The Hunt For Red October (DVD)
Date: 13/12/01, updated on 13/12/01 (102 review reads)
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Considering the credentials which this movie has there should be no suprise that it delivers the goods with seemingly consumate ease. Director John McTiernan already had two of the greatest action movies of the 80s under his belt(Die Hard and Predator...ok one great, and one fun) so when he was signed up to direct the movie adapatation of Tom Clancy's Cold War thriller 'The Hunt For Red October' you couldn't help but get a little excited...if you like this kind of thing. When you heard the cast list as well which includes not only great names in the major roles but all through the lineup it looked like you were in for a real treat..and you were right..if you like this kind of thing of course. ;o)
Tom Clancy's novels never translate that well to the silver screen. There is the kind of attention to detail in his novels which readers delight in and directors balk at in fear of losing their audience. Clancy's tightly knit, complex stories focus as more upon the politics and strategies of warfare than the action itself(although that's there too) which is not the standard Hollywood fare so they replace it with the formula action scenes, girl/guy romance thing and all that other formulaic stuff which most of us are surely bored to death with by now. Clancy himself has complained on numerous occassions that his work is not being translated in the way which he himself would like to see - that it is being watered down and slashed about in order to make the average punter an average happy punter and anyone who has even had a sniff at the book before watching this movie(or any of his others) will see exactly what he means. Still...McTiernan is a director of some quality and with a cast including the likes of Sean Connery, Alec Baldwin, James Earl Jones, Sam Neil, Peter Firth...and so on, you know you its not going to be that bad...or in fact, that its going to be pretty damn good!
As it happens, The Hunt For Red October is good, bu
t with a few minor gripes which may put off a few viewers - it certainly caused a fair few critics to grumble at the time(nothing new though). To simplify a complicated plot the Red October is a Russian submarine which is worrying the US officials somewhat. You see, the Red October is no ordinary submarine but is instead the very latest Russian weapon of war which includes a new technology known as the 'caterpillar drive' which makes it effectively invisible to radar. The drive pushes water instead of air for propulsion so the Red October doesn't show up at all on conventional radar...effectively meaning that it could sit lazily off the coast of America without detection and launch a barrage of unstoppable nuclear missiles at the mainland. It has also not gone without notice that the entire Russian fleet put to sea just after the Red October itself did...America in its Cold War days fears an attack and tries to hunt the Red October down.
However, thats not all, because military bloke Jack Ryan has a theory that the Russian captain may very well be seeking to defect to the US and turn over his craft in the bargain, that the fleet is chasing the Red October rather than backing it up in an attack but he has to prove this, and he only has days to do so before the US launches a counter-strike. Indeed Russian sub commander Marko Ramius does intend to defect along with some of his other officers and a tense story develops from there as a number of factors need to be resolved before this is possible. Ramos has the problem of a dissenting crew, staying silent and hidden from the entire Russian fleet whilst trying to alert the Americans of his intention to defect(so don't blow him up!) and the tense military politics playing out on the surface is more than a little intriguing. Great stuff.
Criticisms then first, I did say there were some. Tom Clancy's novels are rather slow to unfold, with big build ups and complex characters being inter
weaved into even more complex plots against a backdrop of political and military protocol. Translating this to the silver screen is...well difficult and McTiernan opts to basically dump a lot of it. What he does keep is built up slowly in scenes which often seem to drag on well past their sell by date and add enormously to the length of the movie. Some of you reading this are going to find the first hour crushingly dull as many professional critics did at the time of its release. All this does go to build up and explain the plot...but it just seems, rather bloated shall we say. Another 'criticism' is hardly a criticism at all but a warning. You may look at the credentials of the director and think tis is going to be another action packed blockbuster in the same vein as a Die hard, or a Predator and if you come in with that thought you are going to be bored silly by it all. There are are few underwater action scenes, mainly tense cat and mouse games but a little open warfare as well to keep your interest but this is more of a thinking man's thriller than a piece of numbskullish(all be it excellent) entertainment that the likes Die Hard gave us.
It seems almost pointless to talk of acting, scripting, direction etc. when you have quality such as this behind it all. Rest assured it is all nothing short of excellent. McTiernan managed to instill more than enough in the way of intrigue to hold your interest throughout and the underwater scenes are nailbitingly tense as they should be. Despite the fact that you riccochet around the various locations Russian sub, US sub, Whitehouse, Kremlin, surface fleet etc.you never end up 'lost' as is easy to do in movies like this thanks to some expert scripting from Larry Ferguson despite things getting a little complicated at times...which is also true of the underwater battles where it is always difficult to lose who are the good guys and who are the bad guys...a sub, is a sub, is a sub, is a...well you
get the picture, its often very easy to lose the plot here and The Hunt For Red October sidesteps the problem rather well. Acting is first rate, there really is no point stepping through the cast unless you really want to read excellent 20 times(not too sure about Connery's accent if you REALLY want a criticism), and the rousing classical musical score which often features a Russian male voice choir is used to excellent affect in accompanying and enhancing the scenes.
Obviously this kind of thing isn't going to be to everyone's taste so forgive me if I eulogise on the subject and you watch it and thinks its pants. If you are into light and airy movies, with little substance, or are expecting an all out action thriller then you basically aren't going to like it. If however you like a movie with a little bit of brain about it, a large helping of tension and some great actors and performances then you are in for a treat...and that treat begins in about 8 hours time on terrestrial television too, so thats your Thursday evening sorted. :o)
Director: John McTiernan
Screenplay: Larry Ferguson, (Tom Clancy)
Cast: Sean Connery - Captain Marko Ramius
Alec Baldwin- Jack Ryan
Scott Glenn - Commander Bart Mancuso
Sam Neill - Captain Vasily Borodin
James Earl Jones - Admiral James Greer
Joss Ackland - Ambassador Lysenko
Peter Firth - P.O. Ivan Putin
Tim Curry - Dr. Petrov
Stellan Skarsgård - Captain Tupolev
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