Research Helps Save the Day

Hunt for Red October

The 1990 film based on the first and most famous novel by Tom Clancy.  The film stars Alec Baldwin as Jack Ryan, Sean Connery (the original James Bond, we’ll see him in Last Crusade, early in his career he was in Darby O’Gill and the Little People [playing an Irishman, he even sings] and who sadly passed away on Halloween at the age of 90) as Marko Ramius, Sam Neill (he was Merlin in a short movie series, and Cardinal Wolsey in The Tudors; some of you may recognize him from Jurassic Park; I have not seen those movies) as Captain Borodin, James Earl Jones (Mufasa, Darth Vader; need I say more) as Admiral Greer.  Tim Curry (Wadsworth in Clue, he starred in the disturbing Rocky Horror Picture Show, Rooster in Annie, a wonderful Cardinal Richelieu in the 90’s Three Musketeers, and a plethora of voice roles, including the recent Clone Wars series) appears as Dr. Petrov and a young Stellan Skarsgård (Bootstrap Bill Turner in Pirates of the Caribbean franchise, part of the MCU as Erik Selvig, Mamma Mia)  as Captain Tupolev.  Gates McFadden (Dr. Beverly Crusher in Star Trek: The Next Generation) has a very brief appearance at the beginning of the film as Jack Ryan’s wife, Caroline.

Some interesting trivia bits:

Three main actors had prior military experience; Sean Connery joined the Royal Navy when he was fifteen and served onboard the aircraft carrier H.M.S. Formidable.  Scott Glenn (the captain of the U.S.S. Dallas) was  U.S. Marine, and James Earl Jones was an Officer in the U.S. Army.

The U.S. Naval Institute, a private, non-profit professional military association, located on the grounds of the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland, has been publishing books and magazines related to Naval strategy and maritime history since 1874 (we see a copy of their monthly magazine, Proceedings in an opening scene).  In 1984, they published their first work of fiction, The Hunt for Red October.

Clancy, who passed away in 2013, is known for his thorough research.  My mother, who has read most all of his books (which are 600+ pages) remarked that when The Hunt for Red October was first released, Clancy had to prove that all of the information he included was available publically; officials were worried he had gotten a hold of classified information.  The Hunt for Red October is the only Clancy book I have read and I found it very good and would not be opposed to reading more (though they are very long and detailed).  I had to read it and a Cussler book in exchange for making my brother read Mists of Avalon.

Carrying on with the plot:

There is an opening scrawl explaining “In November of 1984, shortly before Gorbachev came to power [set during the Cold War], a typhoon-class Soviet Sub surfaced just south of the Grand Banks [Nova Scotia].  It then sank in deep water, apparently suffering a radiation problem.  Unconfirmed reports indicated some of the crew were rescued.”  According to the Soviet and American governments, none of what we are about to see ever happened.

We begin on a Soviet sub as it leaves its base in northern Russia [and I adore the theme for the movie; though if you listen to it a dozen times, you get Russian stuck in your head] and briefly meet Ramius and Borodin.  Next, we see a study full of books [pretty sure my brother, a naval historian, either owns or has read most of those books]; Dr. Jack Ryan is getting ready to leave and fly from England to the U.S.  He’s not fond of sleeping on flights, but it is imperative that he sees Admiral Greer of the CIA.  The Soviet sub, Red October has launched with Ramius as its captain.  The sub has odd doors on it and Ryan wants to discover what they are for.  Meanwhile, we’re introduced to the sonar team of the U.S.S. Dallas.

Onboard the Red October, the orders are opened.  They are to rendezvous with Captain Tupolev and run through drills to test the new sub.  Ramius has other intentions; he kills the political officer and passes it off as an accident.  He later announces to the crew that they will indeed test the new sub, but the Soviet fleet will be unsuspecting; they will also attempt to get through the American navy.  Ryan has also discovered that the doors on the Red October are for a caterpillar drive; the sub will run nearly silent [technically not true, but we don’t know enough about how subs run anyways that we’re honestly not going to know the difference].  The U.S.S. Dallas has found the Red October and begins tracking her.

In Russia, Ramius has sent a letter to Soviet command, resigning.  Russia now wants their sub back and sends their fleet after it; with orders to kill Ramius.  Dr. Ryan’s question is no longer simply research; he needs to brief the Joint Chiefs and the President’s Security Advisor.  The military feels the Red October is a threat and obviously, must shoot it.  Ryan ponders a little longer and realizes Ramius means to defect.  He has three days to find the Red October and determine if his hunch is correct.  Now, Ryan has to get out to the aircraft carrier, the U.S.S. Enterprise.  Then hop over to the U.S.S. Dallas.

Ramius is indeed attempting to defect, along with the rest of the officers of the Red October.  They’re worried though, that the crew may mutiny and what sort of punishment they will face if they’re captured.  But Ramius has been teaching the submarine captains of the Soviet navy for forty years; he knows their tactics.  They just have to find the right American.  After they enter an underwater canyon, their caterpillar drive overheats and they have to shut it down; meaning they will no longer be running silent (sabotage from a crewmember onboard).  The U.S.S. Dallas already has gotten in position at the end of the canyon; their superb sonar man has figured out a way to listen for the Soviet sub.  Unfortunately, they have to surface to get Ryan onboard.  Then he has to convince the captain he’s not crazy.  Has Ramius done any Crazy Ivans (turning the sub to see if it’s being followed, meaning the sub tailing it {in this case, the Dallas} has to stop and hopefully not run into the enemy sub)?  Yes.  Ryan predicts he’ll do another one.  He’s right.  Well, let’s see if they can get a hold of the Red October.

By this point, the Russian ambassador (played by Joss Ackland, who has appeared in the Mighty Ducks movie and the 90’s Miracle on 34th Street) asks the White House for assistance in “rescuing” a “lost” sub.  While the Red October is no longer silent, one of the Russian planes searching for it detects it and drops a torpedo in the water.  Ramius holds his position longer than normal in the canyon, moving at the last possible second so the torpedo hits an underwater mountain.  After this, the Russian ambassador has to admit that Ramius has gone crazy and intends to fire missiles on America, causing a war (this is a lie; but Soviet naval command won’t want the truth getting out).  So now the ambassador is asking for American help to find and kill Ramius.

The Dallas and Red October have found each other and weapons are aimed at each other.  They don’t fire.  Instead, they both go to periscope depth to take a peek.  Dallas signals Red October, betting that Ramius will be at the scope; does he want to defect?  He sends a signal, yes.  Very well, meet them due south in a deep trench.  When Red October arrives at the location, the radiation alarm goes off in the nuclear reactor.  Ramius surfaces the sub and evacuates his men.  He sends the doctor (who is not in on the plan) with the men.  Ramius and the officers will go back down with the sub and fend off an impending American “attack.”  A torpedo is dropped, but Admiral Greer makes sure it detonates early.  Ryan, the captain and sonar guy from the Dallas make their way over to the Red October.  Ryan luckily speaks a little Russian and endears himself to Ramius.  Ramius officially presents the Red October to the Americans and declares that he and his officers wish to defect.   Before they can get too friendly, another torpedo comes through the water.  Not American, Russian.  Captain Tupolev has found Red October and will follow orders and sink her.

Ryan is in a spot of trouble; he’s a former Marine helicopter pilot, not a naval officer, he doesn’t know how to operate a sub.  He now writes history books for the CIA.  But he’ll follow Ramius orders to turn into the path of the torpedo.  The torpedo breaks apart on the hull; they closed the distance so the torpedo wasn’t armed yet.  But the next one will be.  On the surface, the Russian crew believes that their captain is fighting the Americans.  Tupolev’s next torpedo locks on to Red October.  Dallas dives to the rescue and distracts the torpedo long enough to turn it back on to Tupolev, blowing him up.  They have to surface quickly, again, making the Russians believe their captain is winning; until they see an explosion.

After that, the saboteur shows his face, attempting to shoot Ramius.  Borodin pushes his captain out of the way and is shot.  Ramius and Ryan go after the shooter while the Dallas captain pilots the sub.  The saboteur?  A cook.  He runs towards the missile bay, most likely to blow up the ship.  Ramius warns Ryan after Ramius is nicked, be careful where he shoots.  Ryan corners the guy and fires.  Ryan suggests the Red October head towards Maine; they can sail it up the river, far from any naval station and far from where people are going to look.  The Russian ambassador now has to admit they have lost another sub (Tupolev’s).  As the theme plays again, Ryan is on a flight back to his wife and daughter, accompanied by teddy bear brother for the daughter’s bear.  And he actually manages to sleep.

The movie is very faithful to the book.  While not as non-stop action as some other classics, or even later Jack Ryan films, I like that it can show “enemies” getting along.  And even professors can be heroes.  Let’s give a cheer for research and history!  [Am I the only one cheering?  Oh well, may just be me then, lol].  It’s great to see some of these famous actors a little younger, like Alec Baldwin, and even Sam Neill and Tim Curry.  And who do they get to play a Russian submarine captain?  Sean Connery, complete with Scottish accent; but it’s Sean Connery, so we’re okay with it.  He’s a quiet, but firm lead and Alec Baldwin is kind of adorable in a dorky way; a professor a little bit out of his comfort zone.  This movie has grown on me over the years; as a kid, I thought it was boring.  Now, older and wiser, hey, these things make sense!

Up Next: Patriot Games

A Tribute to Sean Connery:

Alec Baldwin reported to Rolling Stones on Saturday, October 31, that Connery wasn’t chatty, “he was there to work.  But he was happy to help you get the job done.  He’d been through what I [Baldwin] was going through.”  To Alec, “Sean was always the most impressive combination of actor and star that I’ve ever seen.”  “Connery had that trifecta dynamic of knowing where masculinity, sensitivity, and intelligence intersected.  You gotta be emotive, you gotta be tough, you gotta be smart.”

Sean’s successor to Bond, Daniel Craig noted to Variety that Connery “defined and era and a style…he helped create the modern blockbuster.  He will continue to influence actors and film-makers alike for years to come.”  The Bond producers made the statement “Connery was and shall always be remembered as the original James Bond whose indelible entrance into cinema history began when he announced those unforgettable words, ‘The name’s Bond…James Bond.'”  Pierce Brosnan also commented that Sean Connery was “my greatest James Bond as a boy….You cast a long shadow of cinematic splendor that will live on forever.”  Of the Bond role, Brosnan also wrote on Instagram, “you led the way for us all who followed in your iconic footsteps.  Each man in his turn looked to you with reverence and admiration as we forged ahead with our own interpretations of the role.  You were mighty in every way, as an actor and as a man, and will remain so till the end of time.”

Harrison Ford made the comment “‘You don’t know pleasure until someone pays you to take Sean Connery for a ride in the side car of a Russian motorcycle bouncing along a bumpy, twisty mountain trail and getting to watch him squirm.  God, we had fun – if he’s in heaven, I hope they have gold courses.  Rest in peace, dear friend.'”

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