The Hunt for Red October (film)

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The Hunt for Red October
File:The Hunt for Red October movie poster.png
Directed by John McTiernan
Produced by Mace Neufeld
Screenplay by
Based on The Hunt for Red October 
by Tom Clancy
Music by Basil Poledouris
Cinematography Jan de Bont
Edited by
  • Mace Neufeld Productions
  • Nina Saxon Film Design
Distributed by Paramount Pictures
Release dates
  • March 2, 1990 (1990-03-02) (United States)
Running time
135 minutes
Country United States
Language English
Budget $30 million[1]
Box office $200.5 million

The Hunt for Red October is a 1990 American action spy thriller film based on Tom Clancy's 1984 novel of the same name. It was directed by John McTiernan and stars Sean Connery as Captain Marko Ramius and Alec Baldwin as Jack Ryan. The fictional story is set during the Cold War era. It involves a rogue Soviet naval captain who wishes to defect to the United States, and an American CIA analyst who correctly deduces that circumstance, and must prove his theory to the U.S. Navy to avoid a violent confrontation between the two nations. The ensemble cast features Scott Glenn, James Earl Jones and Sam Neill.

The film was a co-production between the motion picture studios of 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 release in theaters, the motion picture was nominated and won a number of accolades including the Academy Award for Best Sound Editing in 1991. On June 12, 1990, the original motion picture soundtrack was released by the MCA Records music label. The soundtrack was composed and orchestrated by musician Basil Poledouris.

The Hunt for Red October received mostly positive reviews from critics and was one of the top grossing films of the year, generating $122 million in North America and over $200 million worldwide in box office business. The film was the first in a set of sequels throughout the years involving the fictional character of Jack Ryan. However, for the role of Ryan, a number of different actors were cast for the subsequent reincarnations of the film saga, including Harrison Ford, Ben Affleck, and Chris Pine.


In November 1984, Soviet submarine Captain First Rank Marko Ramius (Connery) commands Red October, a new Typhoon-class nuclear sub featuring a caterpillar drive, rendering it undetectable to passive sonar. Ramius leaves port on orders to conduct exercises with the V. K. Konovalov, commanded by his former student Captain Tupolev (Skarsgård). Once at sea, Ramius kills political officer Ivan Putin (Firth), and commands the crew to head toward America's east coast to conduct missile drills.

The next morning, CIA analyst Jack Ryan (Baldwin) briefs government officials on the departure of Red October and the threat it poses. Officials in the briefing learn that the bulk of the Soviet Navy has been deployed to sink Red October, fearing Ramius may plan an unauthorized strike against the United States. Ryan however, hypothesizes that Ramius instead plans to defect, and leaves to meet up with the American submarine USS Dallas to prove his theory. Meanwhile, Tupolev, though unable to track Red October, guesses his former mentor's route and sets a new course across the Atlantic.

Typhoon-class submarine, the same type as the fictional Red October.

Red October's caterpillar drive fails during risky maneuvers through an undersea canyon. Petty Officer Jones (Vance), a sonar technician aboard Dallas who has discovered a way to detect Red October through underwater acoustics, plots an intercept course. Ryan arranges a hazardous mid-ocean rendezvous to get aboard Dallas, where he attempts to persuade its captain, Commander Bart Mancuso (Glenn), to contact Ramius and determine his intentions.

A Soviet Ambassador informs the U.S. that the sub is a renegade, and asks for their help in sinking it. An order to do this is communicated to the U.S. Fleet, including Dallas. However, Ryan is convinced that Ramius plans to defect, and convinces Mancuso to contact Ramius and offer assistance. Ramius, stunned that the Americans correctly guessed his plan, accepts their offer. He then stages a nuclear reactor emergency, and orders most of his crew to abandon ship. After Ramius submerges Red October, Ryan, Mancuso, and Jones come aboard via a rescue sub, at which point Ramius formally requests asylum in the United States for himself and his officers.

Red October is suddenly attacked by Konovalov, which has followed them across the Atlantic. As the two Soviet subs maneuver, one of Red October's cooks, Loginov (Arana), an undercover GRU agent who has hidden himself on board, opens fire on the crew. He fatally wounds Ramius's first officer, Vasily Borodin (Neill) before retreating into the missile launch area. Loginov later shoots Ramius, wounding him, but Ryan shoots Loginov before he can detonate a missile and destroy the sub. Meanwhile, Red October makes evasive maneuvers with help from Dallas, causing Konovalov to be destroyed by one of its own torpedoes. Ryan and Ramius, their subterfuge complete, sail Red October to the Penobscot River in Maine.


Swedish actor Stellan Skarsgård, who portrayed commanding officer Tupolev of the Russian submarine V.K. Konovalov.
  • Sean Connery as Captain 1st Rank Marko Aleksandrovich Ramius, Commanding Officer of Red October
  • Alec Baldwin as Dr. Jack Ryan, CIA intelligence analyst, author, Professor of Naval History at the United States Naval Academy
  • Scott Glenn as Commander Bart Mancuso, Commanding Officer of the USS Dallas
  • Sam Neill as Captain 2nd Rank Vasily Borodin, Executive Officer of Red October
  • James Earl Jones as Vice Admiral James Greer, CIA Deputy Director of Intelligence (DDI)
  • Joss Ackland as Ambassador Andrei Lysenko, Soviet Ambassador to the United States
  • Richard Jordan as Dr. Jeffrey Pelt, National Security Advisor
  • Tim Curry as Dr. Yevgeniy Petrov, Medical Officer on board Red October
  • Peter Firth as Senior Lieutenant Ivan Putin, Political Officer of Red October
  • Ronald Guttman as Senior Lieutenant Melekhin, Chief Engineer of Red October
  • Stellan Skarsgård as Captain 2nd Rank Viktor Tupolev, Commanding Officer of the V.K. Konovalov
  • Fred Dalton Thompson as Rear Admiral (Lower Half) Joshua Painter, Commander of the Enterprise Carrier Battle Group
  • Courtney B. Vance as Sonar Technician Submarines Second Class(SS) Jones, Sonar operator of the USS Dallas
  • Michael Welden as Captain-Lieutenant Gregoriy Kamarov, Navigator of Red October
  • Anthony Peck as Lieutenant Commander "Tommy" Thompson, Executive Officer of the USS Dallas
  • Daniel Davis as Captain Charlie Davenport, Commanding Officer of the USS Enterprise
  • Tomas Arana as Cook's Assistant Igor Loginov, Red October's cook, also a GRU agent
  • Peter Zinner as Admiral Yuri Ilyich Padorin, Chief Political Officer of the Soviet Navy



Producer Mace Neufeld optioned Tom Clancy's novel after reading galley proofs in February 1985. Despite the book becoming a best seller, no Hollywood studio was interested because of its content. Neufeld said, "I read some of the reports from the other studios, and the story was too complicated to understand."[2] After a year and a half he finally got a high-level executive at Paramount Pictures to read Clancy's novel and agree to develop it into a film.

Screenwriters Larry Ferguson and Donald Stewart worked on the screenplay while Neufeld approached the U.S. Navy for approval. They feared top secret information or technology might be revealed. However, several admirals liked Clancy's book and reasoned that the film could do for submariners what Top Gun did for the Navy's jet fighter pilots.[2] Captain Michael Sherman, director of the Navy's western regional information office in Los Angeles, suggested changes to the script that would present the Navy in a positive light.[3]

The Navy gave the filmmakers access to several Los Angeles-class submarines, allowing them to photograph unclassified sections of both the Chicago and Portsmouth to use in set and prop design. The Louisville was used for the scene in which Baldwin is dropped from a helicopter to the submarine. Key cast and crew members rode along in subs, including Alec Baldwin and Scott Glenn, fulfilling an overnight trip aboard the Salt Lake City. Glenn, who played the commander of Dallas, trained by assuming the identity of a submarine captain on board the Houston (which portrayed Dallas in most scenes).[2] The sub's crew all took orders from Glenn, who was being prompted by the actual commanding officer.[2]


Glenn is a U.S. Marine. Baldwin also learned to steer a Los Angeles-class submarine. Some extras portraying the Dallas crew were submariners, including the pilot of the DSRV, Lt Cmdr George Billy, commander of the DSRV. Submariners from San Diego were cast as extras because it was easier to hire them than to train actors. Crew from USS La Jolla, including Lt Mark Draxton, took leave to participate in filming. According to an article in Sea Classics, at least two sailors from the Atlantic Fleet-based Dallas took leave and participated in the Pacific Fleet-supported filming. The crew of Houston called their month-long filming schedule the "Hunt for Red Ops." Houston made over 40 emergency surfacing "blows" for rehearsal and for the cameras.[2]

Baldwin was approached in December 1988, but was not told for what role. Klaus Maria Brandauer was cast as Soviet sub commander Marko Ramius but two weeks into filming he quit due to a prior commitment.[2] The producers faxed the script to Sean Connery who, at first, declined because it didn't make sense. He was indeed missing the first page. He arrived in L.A. on a Friday and was supposed to start filming on Monday but he requested a day to rehearse.[4] Principal photography began on April 3, 1989 with a $30 million budget.[4] The Navy lent the film crew Houston, Enterprise, two frigates (Wadsworth and Reuben James), helicopters, and a dry-dock crew.[3]

Filmmaker John Milius revised some of the film's script, writing a few speeches for Sean Connery and all of his Russian dialogue.[5] He was asked to rewrite the whole film but was only required to do the Russian sequences.[6] Rather than choosing between the realism of Russian dialog with subtitles, or the audience-friendly use of English (with or without Russian accents), the filmmakers compromised with a deliberate conceit. The film begins with the actors speaking Russian with English subtitles. But in an early scene, actor Peter Firth casually switches in mid-sentence to speaking in English on the word "Armageddon", which is the same spoken word in both languages. After that point, all the Soviets' dialogue is communicated in English. Connery continued using the Russian accent for the rest of the motion picture. Only towards the end of the film, at the beginning of the scene in which the Soviet and American submariners meet, do some of the actors speak in Russian again.


Filming in submarines was impractical. Instead, five soundstages on the Paramount backlot were used. Two 50-foot square platforms housing mock-ups of Red October and Dallas were built, standing on hydraulic gimbals that simulated the sub's movements. Connery recalled, "It was very claustrophobic. There were 62 people in a very confined space, 45 feet above the stage floor. It got very hot on the sets, and I'm also prone to sea sickness. The set would tilt to 45 degrees. Very disturbing."[3] The veteran actor shot for four weeks and the rest of the production shot for additional months on location in Port Angeles, Washington and the waters off Los Angeles.[3]

File:USS Reuben James;075702.jpg
The USS Reuben James, where a number of flight deck scenes were filmed.

Made before sophisticated CGI became the norm in filmmaking, the film's opening sequence featured a long pull-out reveal of the immense titular Typhoon-class sub. It included a nearly full-scale, above-the-water-line mockup of the sub, constructed from two barges welded together. Each country's submarine had its own background color: Soviet submarines, such as Red October and Konovalov, had interiors in black with silver trim. American ships, such as Dallas and Enterprise, had grey interiors. However, during one scene when Dallas goes to a higher alert status it was flooded with red light. Early filming was aboard USS Reuben James in the area of the Juan de Fuca Strait and Puget Sound in March 1989. The ship operated out of U.S. Coast Guard Station Port Angeles. The SH-60B detachment from the Battlecats of HSL-43 operated out of NAS Whidbey Island, after being displaced by the filmcrew. Most underwater scenes were filmed using smoke with a model sub connected to 12 cables, giving precise, smooth control for turns. Computer effects, in their infancy, created bubbles and other effects such as particulates in the water.

By March 1990, just before the film's theatrical release, the Soviet Parliament removed the Communist Party from government, effectively ending the Cold War. Set during this period, there were concerns that with its end, the film would be irrelevant but Neufeld felt that it "never really represented a major problem".[4] To compensate for the change in Russia's political climate, an on-screen crawl appears at the beginning of the film stating that it takes place in 1984 during the Cold War.[4] Tony Seiniger designed the film's poster and drew inspiration from Soviet poster art, utilizing bold red, white and black graphics. According to him, the whole ad campaign was designed to have a "techno-suspense quality to it". The idea was to play up the thriller aspects and downplay the political elements.[4]

The film caused a minor sensation in the black projects submarine warfare technology community.[7][8] In one scene, where the USS Dallas is chasing Red October through the submarine canyon, the crew can be heard calling out that they have various "milligal anomalies". This essentially revealed the use of gravimetry as a method of silent navigation in US submarines. Thought to be a billion dollar black project, the development of a full-tensor gravity gradiometer by Bell Aerospace was a classified technology at the time. It was thought to be deployed on only a few Ohio-class submarine after it was first developed in 1973. Bell Aerospace later sold the technology to Bell Geospace for oil exploration purposes.[9] The last Typhoon-class submarine was officially laid down in 1986, under the name TK-210, but according to sources was never finished and scrapped in 1990.[10]


The Hunt for Red October (Music from the Motion Picture)
Film score by Basil Poledouris
Released June 12, 1990
Length 29:48
Label MCA Records
Jack Ryan soundtrack chronology
The Hunt for Red October
Patriot Games
(1992)Patriot Games1992

The musical score of The Hunt for Red October was composed by Basil Poledouris. A soundtrack album composed of ten melodies was released on June 12, 1990.[11] The album is missing some of the musical moments present in the film, including the scene where the crew of Red October sings the Soviet national hymn. The soundtrack is limited due to the fact that it was originally compiled to fit the Compact Cassette. Later, it was remastered for the CD. An expanded version was released in late 2013 by Intrada Records. It features 40 additional minutes of the score, including the so far-unreleased end titles.[12]


Box office

The Hunt for Red October opened in 1,225 theaters on March 2, 1990, grossing $17 million on its opening weekend, more than half its budget.[1] The film went on to gross $122,012,643 in North America with a worldwide total of $200,512,643.[1]

Critical response

The film received positive reviews from critics; it holds an 86% rating on Rotten Tomatoes based on 66 critics. At Metacritic, which assigns a weighted average out of 100 to critics' reviews, The Hunt for Red October received a score of 58 based on 17 reviews.[13]

Roger Ebert called it "a skillful, efficient film that involves us in the clever and deceptive game being played",[14] while Gene Siskel commented on the film's technical achievement and Baldwin's convincing portrayal of Jack Ryan. Nick Schager, for Slant magazine's review, noted, "The Hunt for Red October is a thrilling edge-of-your-seat trifle that has admirably withstood the test of time."[15] In contrast however, Newsweek's David Ansen wrote, "But it's at the gut level that Red October disappoints. This smoother, impressively mounted machine is curiously ungripping. Like an overfilled kettle, it takes far too long to come to a boil."[16] Vincent Canby, writing for The New York Times, opined that "the characters, like the lethal hardware, are simply functions of the plot, which in this case seems to be a lot more complex than it really is."[17]


The Hunt for Red October was nominated and won several awards in 1991. In addition, the film was also nominated for AFI's 100 Years...100 Thrills.[18]

Award Category Nominee Result
1991 63rd Academy Awards[19] Best Sound Editing Cecelia Hall, George Watters II Won
Best Sound Mixing Richard Bryce Goodman, Richard Overton, Kevin F. Cleary, Don J. Bassman Nominated
Best Film Editing Dennis Virkler, John Wright Nominated
1991 44th British Academy Film Awards Best Actor Sean Connery Nominated
Best Production Design Terence Marsh Nominated
Best Sound Cecelia Hall, George Watters II, Richard Bryce Goodman, Don J. Bassman Nominated
1991 BMI Film Music Awards BMI Film Music Award Basil Poledouris Won
1991 Motion Picture Sound Editors Awards Best Sound Editing – ADR ———— Won

See also


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 "The Hunt for Red October". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved 2007-12-03. 
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 2.4 2.5 Thomas, Bob (March 2, 1990). "High-Tech Novel Took Five Years to Reach Screen". Associated Press. 
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 3.3 Donohue, Cathryn (March 2, 1990). "Red October Surfaces as a Movie". The Washington Times. 
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 4.3 4.4 Kilday, Gregg (March 2, 1990). "Reds Sail Into the Sunset". Entertainment Weekly. Retrieved 2010-05-20. 
  5. Plume, Ken (May 7, 2003). "An Interview with John Milius". IGN. Retrieved 2010-05-20. 
  6. Segaloff, Nat, "John Milius: The Good Fights", Backstory 4: Interviews with Screenwriters of the 1970s and 1980s, Ed. Patrick McGilligan, Uni of California 2006 p 308
  7. "Hunt for Red October Article" (PDF). 53. CIA. Summer 2009. p. 24. Retrieved 2010-07-14. 
  8. "Gravity Gradiometry Article". Scientific American. June 1998. Retrieved 2010-07-14. 
  9. "Bell gradiometer history". BellGeospace. Retrieved 2010-07-14. 
  10. Podvodnye Lodki, Yu.V. Apalkov, Sankt Peterburg, 2002, ISBN 5-8172-0069-4
  11. McDonald, Steven. "The Hunt for Red October [Original Motion Picture Soundtrack]  – Overview". AllMusic. All Media Network, LLC. Retrieved February 2, 2014. 
  12. "Hunt for Red October, The". Intrada Records. Retrieved 2014-02-14. 
  13. "The Hunt for Red October". Metacritic. Retrieved 2014-01-17. 
  14. Ebert, Roger (March 2, 1990). "The Hunt for Red October". Chicago Sun-Times. Retrieved 2007-10-25. 
  15. Schager, Nick (2003). "The Hunt for Red October". Slant. Retrieved 2007-10-25. 
  16. Ansen, David (March 2, 1990). "The Hunt for Red October". Newsweek. 
  17. "Reviews/Film; Connery as Captain of a Renegade Soviet Sub". The New York Times. Retrieved 2014-01-17. 
  18. AFI's 100 Years...100 Thrills Nominees
  19. "The 63rd Academy Awards (1991) Nominees and Winners". Retrieved 2011-10-20. 

External links