VOD film review: The Hunt for Red October
Ivan Radford | On 09, Oct 2021
Director: John McTiernan
Cast: Sean Connery, Alec Baldwin, James Earl Jones, Peter Firth, Sam Neill, Tim Curry
Where to watch The Hunt for Red October online in the UK: Sky Cinema / NOW / Apple TV (iTunes) / Prime Video (Buy/Rent) / Google Play / Sky Store
There’s nothing like an enclosed space to keep you in suspense. From elevators to planes, cinema has often been at its tensest in a tiny, single location. It’s something that The Hunt for Red October understands brilliantly well, using its confined location to drive up the suspense, even if things occasionally drifts into cheesy waters.
The film follows the titular submarine, which is a Soviet Union vessel with the latest in nautical technology, making it speedy and nearly impossible to detect. But mid-voyage, something goes amiss – specifically, the submarine, with its captain, Mark Ramius (Sean Connery), going rogue and heading to America. Burning his orders and killing off the only other person on board who knows what they are, he plots a course for the East Coast and turns on the invisi-drive. On dry land, meanwhile, young CIA analyst Jack Ryan (Alec Baldwin) has a hunch about what’s going on and goes toe to toe with his boss (James Earl Jones – boomingly mercurial) to get dropped into the field.
What ensues is essentially a collision of two immovable forces, and Die Hard director John McTiernan is in comfortable waters as he confidently brings together the all-American hero and the possibly less-than-red Soviet stalwart. Baldwin is on charismatic mode, but has little to do beyond being beyond reproach, but if his role as Tom Clancy’s popular character is underwritten, it’s made up for by the presence of Connery in the other corner. Starting out in Russian, he soon switches into his natural Connery accent and, while there’s something rather dated about the notion of people from different countries all speaking English in a film, there’s no doubting Connery’s pure charisma.
He’s supported by a strong cast that includes Peter Firth, Sam Neill and Tim Curry, all of them approaching things with their own vocal stylings. The script does just enough to keep things interesting in spite of the old-fashioned Hollywood feel of the production – screenwriters Larry Ferguson and Donald Stewart throw in not only a US vessel tracking the submarine (manned by Scott Glenn and Courtney B Vance) but also a Soviet sub (commanded by Stellan Skarsgard) on October’s tale, not to mention a mole sabotaging things at ever step.
McTiernan has a strong handle on the pacing and set pieces, but the slightly bloated script forgets that the film is at its best when it keeps things simple: the question of whether Ramius is planning to wipe out America or defect to Uncle Sam. Connery has a genuinely unpredictable air that makes us wonder whether he’s crazy or just crazily committed to whatever his plan is. The result may not be the deepest naval thriller around, but it’s a cracking thriller that, thanks to its confined location, is never less than entertaining.
The Hunt for Red October is available on Sky Cinema. Don’t have Sky? You can also stream it on NOW, as part of an £11.99 NOW Cinema Membership subscription. For the latest Sky TV packages and prices, click the button below.