In November of 1984, shortly before Gorbachev came to power, a Typhoon-class Soviet sub surfaced just south of the Grand Banks. It then sank in deep water, apparently suffering a radiation problem. Unconfirmed reports indicated some of the crew were rescued. But according to repeated statements by both Soviet and American governments, nothing of what you are about to see...
The Hunt for Red October is a 1990 film adaptation of the novel of the same name. It stars Sean Connery, playing the Lithuanian captain Marko Ramius, and Alec Baldwin, playing Jack Ryan.It's a Cold War tale of the fictional "Typhoon" class missile submarineKrasniy Oktyabr ("Red October"). The sub has an experimental magnetohydrodynamic propulsion system (more easily referred to as Caterpillar Drive), which allows it to run more quietly than any other ship at sea; effectively making it nigh-invisible to SONAR detection. On its first deployment, Captain Marko Ramius murders his political officer, taking his set of keys for the October's nuclear missiles. Conspiring with his senior officers, Ramius notifies his crew that they will be testing the ship by evading both the U.S. and Soviet navies to reach the eastern coast of the United States itself...Not desiring to lose their sub or the secret of the Caterpillar Drive, the Soviets send their surface and attack-sub fleets after it, an amount of activity that's suspicious to the other side.The Americans must find the sub before it is destroyed, assuming that CIA analyst Jack Ryan is right that the officers plan to defect — as opposed to just unilaterally launching their missiles...The Typhoon-class submarine is real, and the largest submarine in the world. The submarine in the story, though, is quite considerably different to its real-life counterpart, to the point where they can't really be considered the same vessel, mainly because of its fictional "silent" propulsion system and due to a lot of details of the Typhoons having been classified at the time. On the other hand, the film maintains Plausible Deniability by specifically stating it to be a prototype variant of its class, and at least alludes to future Soviet political instability as a good reason why they never got around to producing more.
The film contains examples of:
Action Film, Quiet Drama Scene: Between the crash on the aircraft carrier and Jack's harrowing arrival aboard the Dallas, there is the scene of Ramius talking about fishing when he was a boy.
Also during the first "Crazy Ivan" scene, the tense shots of the Dallas waiting to see if Red October hears them are intercut with a quiet conversation between Ramius and Borodin about their defection.
Adaptation Explanation Extrication: When Ryan is trying to convince his superiors that Ramius is defecting to the United States, he mentions that, "today is the first anniversary of his wife's death," leaving it unexplained why this is significant. In the book his wife died due to a botched operation by a doctor who escaped punishment due to his Party connections, leading Ramius to decide that "the State must be made to pay".
It is implied more subtly, and in a way more chillingly, in the coldly impersonal way Putin says "Her death was... unfortunate."
Kamarov: Stop pissing, Yuri. Give me a stopwatch and a map, and I'll fly the Alps in a plane with no windows.
Badass Bookworm: Jack Ryan: CIA academic and retired Marine, with a doctorate in history. He also speaks Russian.
Based on a Great Big Lie: Inverted. The film opens with a disclaimer to the effect that, according to American and Soviet authorities, it is absolutely notBased on a True Story. The audience is left to draw their own conclusions.
Big Damn Heroes: Dallas swoops in to drop a couple of decoys and save the Red October.
Compressed Adaptation: The movie gets rid of the British role entirely, ditches the Feed the Mole sideplot and most of the fleet-level conflict between the U.S. and Soviets, and cuts out most of Clancy's rhapsodizing about the intricacies of sub warfare.
Department of Redundancy Department: When the Dallas first picks up Red October, Jonesy reports "I think we've got a boomer coming out of the barn. Could be a missile boat out of Polyarny." A "boomer" is a designation for a missile boat, and "barn" was the US Navy's nickname for Polyarny. (The audio on the second sentence sounds slightly different, so it may have been added later for the audience's benefit.)
Description Cut: Ramius mentions to Borodin that a "buckaroo" will be sent to meet them — and we immediately cut to Ryan in the plane, bouncing about uncomfortably in the turbulence.
Eureka Moment: When Ryan figures out the last part of Ramius' plan. "How do you make a crew want to get off a nuclear subma..."
Everybody Smokes: Most of the Russian crew are shown smoking aboard the sub, especially Engineer Melekhin, who has a cigarette in his hand whenever he's not in the engineering sections.
Everyone Knows Morse: Mancuso sends Morse messages to Ramius (watching by periscope) with a light blinker, asking for an active sonar ping to signal Ramius' agreement. It's at least discussed, as Mancuso says, "My Morse is so rusty, I could be sending him dimensions on Playmate of the Month."
Evil Is Not Well Lit: The Soviet subs have a lot more shadows and subdued lighting than the Dallas. Once Ramius completes his defection the radiation warning lights in the October's command centre are left on, resulting in it being considerably brighter.
Expospeak Gag: Teaching Beaumont to use the sonar, Seaman Jones describes the contact he's found as a "biologic":
Beaumont: A what? Jones: A whale, Seaman Beaumont, a whale. A marine mammal that knows a heck of a lot more about sonar than you do.
Forever War: Sean Connery makes a speech to the sailors reminding them that their grandfathers had been going on patrol against the Americans just like them.
Hand Signals: Chief Engineer Melekhin whistles and uses a hand-across-the-throat sign to tell his subordinate to shut down the caterpillar.
Heroic BSOD: While a few of the officers are bothered by Ramius killing Putin, see What the Hell, Hero? below, they are, with one exception, shocked out of their minds when he reveals that he sent a letter to Admiral Pedorin telling him of their plans to defect.
The crew of the Red October end up believing Ramius and the officers did a collective one since they were fooled into thinking that they got them off so they could scuttle the sub rather than have it captured.
If I Wanted You Dead...: Subverted — after the Red October evades a torpedo launched from a Soviet anti-submarine patrol plane, one of the crew asks "Why's our own navy shooting at us?" and is told by the first officer "If they were really shooting at us, we'd be dead."
Just Plane Wrong/Stock Footage Failure: During the Coming In Hot scene mentioned above, the footage of the "F-14 Tomcat" crashing on landing is actually of an F9F Panther, an aircraft that had been retired for almost 30 years at the time the film was set. The crash footage had also previously been used in a number of other films.
Large Ham: Richard Jordan as the National Security Advisor. It is a very odd scene indeed where Joss Ackland (Soviet Ambassador) is the quiet, reserved one.
Layman's Terms: Jones explains "biologics" are animals, in this case whales.
Married to the Job: Ramius regrets he figuratively widowed his wife the day he married her.
Meaningful Background Event: After the Soviet Bear bomber drops its torpedo,note The first attempt by the Soviets to destroy Red October the co-pilot looks towards the pilot with a horrified look on his face.
The Medic: Doctor Petrov (Tim Curry!), naive but caring about his men, as well as a good officer who keeps order when the Red October is being evacuated.
Military Maverick: Ramius repeatedly demonstrates this, unnerving even his fellow officers with his highly unconventional tactics.
Misguided Missile: Thanks to some clever maneuvering and disengaged torpedo safeties, and a bit of help from Dallas, the Red October manages to string around a pursuing torpedo so that it hits the very attack sub that fired it.
Mr. Exposition: Jones while explaining all sorts of basics of sonar and sub tactics to Beaumont, some of which anyone on board a sub ought to already know.
Nausea Dissonance: Ryan hates flying because of turbulence. When he's on a turbulent flight to the Enterprise, the navigator goes into excruciating detail about a really rough ride on his last mission, mentions he vomited, and then offers him a bit of the candy bar he's been munching on.
The Navigator: Kamarov, who guides Red October through Red Route One.
Nerves of Steel: Marko Ramius quizzes Ryan about Ryan's books while a torpedo is homing in on their sub.
Non-Action Guy: Downplayed. Jack Ryan is a CIA Analyst, an office mouse type who hates flying, takes poorly to being shot at, and spends much of the movie out of his depth as he hitches rides on various warships and submarines. As it is eventually revealed, he is also a graduate of the United States Naval Academy and commissioned in the Marine Corps before being discharged due to his injuries in a helicopter crash.
Non-Lethal Warfare: The setting. But in this specific point it is dangerously close to turning lethal.
Of Course I Smoke: Jack Ryan makes a point about how he doesn't smoke, repeatedly turning down cigarettes. However, after arriving aboard the Red October, he accepts a cigarette from one of the Russian officers. Ryan's coughing amuses the Russians, and helps to ease the tension between both sides.
Oh Crap: Subverted. Tupolev's second officer, when he finds out that their torpedo is now going to hit them instead, he doesn't freak out, but simply points out to his captain how much of an arse he had been.
Played straight when the Red October is overflown by "a low altitude multi-engine turboprop." when it launches a torpedo, the officers know that they were overflown by a Soviet Tupolev Tu-142 and not an American Lockheed P-3 Orion.
Ryans expression when he finds out that Red October was spotted by a satellite leaving the Polyarny Inlet, two days after he found out of its existence.
Bonus points in that he's able to avoid a Dramatic Drop by calmly putting his coffee cup down.
Old Master: Captain Ramius's nickname? The Vilnius Schoolmaster. He trained many of the Soviet navy's sub skippers, including Tupolev.
Ominous Russian Chanting: Hymn to Red October, the movie's theme.note which is not, contrary to popular belief, any official Soviet national song, but created specifically for the movie
Ooh, Me Accent's Slipping: Gates McFadden, from her short scene as Caroline Ryan, as starts with a British accent before going to an American accent.
Truth in Television: Soviet submarine doctrine called for submarines under attack to close with the torpedoes and dive, the idea being to generate a miss due to the speeds involved and rapid aspect change. American doctrine, as seen with Dallas, involved running away from the torp, launching countermeasures and going higher (though not always involving an emergency blow).
Reporting Names: For simplicity, the Soviet subs are only referred to by their NATO designations, even though the Alfa-class was known as the Lira-class in Russian.
Retirony: "I would have liked to have seen Montana."
Rousing Speech: At the start of the mission, Captain Ramius delivers a one so magnificent that it prompts the sailors to chant the national anthem. It's rife with Badass Boast.
When his second tells Ramius that their singing might give their position away, Ramius smiles and tells them "Let them sing!", implying that his speech was a Batman Gambit to give away his position despite being in a caterpillar drive.
Rule of Symbolism: The first word when Russians start speaking English is "Armageddon" (which is the same in both languages), hinting at the reason Ramius did what he did.
Running Gag: Jack Ryan impersonating various ship captains.
Also whenever he's doing something unpleasant or dangerous;
Ryan: Jack, next time you get a bright idea, write a goddamn memo!
Also the eardrums of Red October's sonar officer (in the book, he doesn't remove his headset in time during one of the torpedo explosions and winds up temporarily deafened.)
The Stoic: Engineer Melekhin, the only officer who doesn't share in the Heroic BSOD. In fact, despite the extremly tense situation surrounding him the entire movie, the only event that gives him any visible distress is the sabotage to the caterpillar drive, as it was the first sign that they had a genuine saboteur onboard.
Tension-Cutting Laughter: When Ryan, Captain Mancuso and Seaman "Jonesy" Jones arrive aboard the eponymous sub, there is dead silence as the Americans and Russians stare at one another. But when Ryan accepts a cigarette from one of the Russian officers, he coughs while smoking (earlier, he'd explain that he doesn't smoke, repeatedly turning down cigarettes), which amuses the Russians and soon eases the tensions between both sides.
Translation Convention: The first part of the film is entirely in Russian, until the Political Officer reads from The Bible's "Book of Revelation". Mid-read, the camera zooms in on his mouth, where he begins speaking English, then pulls back again. The language switch is done on "Armageddon", a word pronounced the same way in both Russian and English.
Once the Americans meet them, they switch back to subtitled Russian, as only Ryan can understand it and Ramius speaks English.
Understatement: "Most things in here don't react too well to bullets." Even more amusing when you hear it in Sean Connery's voish, and then Alec Baldwin's imitation.
Ryan: "Mosht things in here don't react well to bulletsh." Yeah, like me ... I don't react well to bullets.
Undying Loyalty: Borodin to Ramius. He may disagree with him in private, but never in front of the other officers, and after voicing his concerns he will always obey.
Ramius: "I miss the peace of fishing like when I was a boy. Forty years I've been at sea. A war at sea. A war with no battles, no monuments... only casualties. I widowed her the day I married her. My wife died while I was at sea, you know."
The Watson: Sea-MAN Beaumont is basically only there so that Jonesy can tell the audience what's going on.
We Used to Be Friends: Tupolev and his old teacher, Ramius. Subverted, in that Tupolev believes they were friends and holds Ramius in high regard, while Ramius appears somewhat disdainful of Tupolev.
The assassination of The Political Officer. When the rest of the command crew bring this up to Ramius over dinner, Borodin defends Ramius's action, saying "Did you think he would just go away and sulk while we carried out our plans?" Only one of them objects on the basis of murder being wrong; the rest are worried the crew will find out and mutiny.
When Ramius reveals he told Russian fleet command that they're defecting. Even Borodin, who respects Ramius greatly and waits until the others leave to voice his own objection, is shocked.
Kamarov: In the name of god, why? Ramius: When he reached the new world, Cortez burned his ships. As a result, his men were well-motivated. Kamarov: You have signed our death warrants.
What Happened to the Mouse?: The DSRV Mystic, Mancuso tells its operator to "Get the hell out of here", and we never see or hear from it again.
Why Did It Have to Be Snakes?: Jack Ryan broke his back in a helicopter crash when he was a Marine, and spent over a year in the hospital recovering from his injuries. He is shown early in the movie being entirely unable to sleep on airplanes (before the helo crash is brought up in the film). Later, he has to ride in the back of a small airplane getting bounced around in order to get to the Enterprise. And then, he has to ride in a helicopter in order to link up with the Dallas. Even once he's on board the sub, he seems to find its initial dive disquieting. However, by the end of the film, being forced to confront this fear so many times seems to have cured him of it, as the final scene shows him sleeping peacefully in broad daylight on his plane journey home.
Worthy Opponent: Capt. Tupolev; also the Russian mole aboard the Red October.