Director: John McTiernan
Writer: Larry Ferguson, Donald E. Stewart
Cinematographer: Jan de Bont
by Jon Cvack
The Hunt for Red October or Crimson Tide ? It’s an ongoing debate between a friend and I. He thinks Crimson Tide is ridiculous and Hunt provides a more realistic portrayal. I kind of see his point, especially during one of the film's most ingenious scenes where the story transitions from Russian to English. I truly think it’s one of the smartest ways to immerse us into the Russian environment. Ultimately, though, the issue is that this is a Jack Ryan movie. While Crimson struggles with a great moral issue regarding whether or not to launch a nuke after receiving a possible cancellation, Hunt is about two Russian sub commanders who wish to defect and offer their cutting edge submarine technology as a bargaining chip for refuge.
It’s this submarine in particular which pulls me out of the story. It’s cutting edge, and the size of a battleship. It can turn on a dime and go completely stealth. I don’t know much about nautical engineering, but I have a feeling this is an unrealistic feat. Add Jack Ryan (Alec Baldwin) to the mix and you’re forced to accept that the movie is going to take creative liberties. As with the other Jack Ryan movies - which I love, except for Sum of All Fears, which I only kind of like - it tricks its audience by presenting a seemingly realistic plot which is absolutely unrealistic and riddled with tropes. There are strong military personalities and of course, no one believes Jack Ryan’s suspicions. Everyone think he’s an asshole with no combat experience, he has to prove himself, yada yada yada. The movie is good, it just didn’t have me on the edge of my seat like Crimson. Added, Sean Connery’s Scottish accent battles so hard with his Russian one that it further adds to how realistic the movie wants to be and how shorts it falls.
Beneath it all is your classic 80s American Exceptionalism viz a viz most of the war films from the decade. Connery and Sam Neil (playing the Commanding Officer Marko Ramius and Executive Officer Vasily Borodin, respectively) wish so much to evade the USSR that they risk pulling the two countries into a Nuclear War. They could have easily just made copies of the ship’s blueprints and left in a much more subtle way. But that would have been a far less interesting a story. One wants a pickup truck, the other wants freedom. American is so perfect in their minds that all illogical and irrational actions are justified in order to achieve that farfetched American Dream. Or, put differently, if Crimson Tide is ridiculous because no one would launch a nuke after receiving a possible cancelled order, then Hunt is no better because no crew would risk so much for their own selfish dreams, including the destruction of the very country they wish to join. We never learn what went wrong. We don’t hear the stories. Imagine how great a scene it would have been to watch a debate about the conditions in the USSR versus those in the West. I just watched Moscow on the Hudson. It was praised for its accuracy of Russian culture. Hearing these stories would have at least helped the case. Instead they just decide to do it after a lifetime of ambitious success, well... just because. Also, if Jack Ryan didn’t get involved there would have a Nuclear War. Seriously, think about that. That was the flip side. That’s far too much happenstance for my taste. It’s an enjoyable film. I just wish there was more substance.
BELOW: Sean and Sam speak Russian. I can't find the full clip, but once they get down below it seamlessly transitions to English. Very smart stuff.
Thoughts on films, old and new
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