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For, Friday, March 6, 2020

EDITOR’S NOTE: This adaptation of Tom Clancy’s novel is a great tension-filled thriller and it kicked off the Jack Ryan franchise (which includes five films, three video games and an Amazon streaming series). Interestingly, while Alec Baldwin is fine as Ryan, casting Sean Connery as the film’s villain (or is he?) tipped the scales, just because Connery brings such heft to the role. If you have somehow missed it, this is one to see. And now it’s getting a new 4K release from Paramount Home Entertainment. My review was published in the Deseret News on March 2, 1990.

John McTiernan, who also directed "Die Hard" and "Predator," certainly knows how to turn superficial scripts into thrill-a-minute powerhouse movies.

Both of those films were fraught with weaknesses in story and character but McTiernan made them compelling suspense thrillers that attracted repeat business and became enormous hits.

"The Hunt for Red October," based on Tom Clancy's best-selling novel, is sure to be McTiernan's third smash blockbuster in a row.


Sean Connery, standing, and Alec Baldwin in 'The Hunt for Red October' (1990).

If you'll pardon the pun, there's not much depth to this tale of submarines chasing each other, and at times "Hunt" seems to be little more than "Star Wars" underwater. But with a sharp eye for building tension and edgy editing that forces audience attention from distraction, McTiernan's "Hunt" should more than satisfy its audience.

There is also no question that Sean Connery's star power has a lot to do with the film's success. His presence alone boosts a film like this.

And to give a feeling of authenticity to it all, the story is set in the pre-glasnost era, focusing on two characters, a veteran Soviet submarine commander (Connery) who becomes a renegade, stealing the Red October, a sub with nuclear capabilities, and heading straight for U.S. shores, and a CIA analyst (Alec Baldwin) who figures out what Connery has in mind — but has trouble convincing his superiors.

Meanwhile, the Soviet Navy comes out in force to track Connery down and kill him, and the U.S. Navy similarly is ordered to destroy the sub before it gets too close to American shores.

McTiernan's direction is so rapid-fire and riveting that we tend not to notice some less-than-credible moments along the way, and it helps that the cast is so seasoned and expert.

Connery is perfect as the low-key Soviet commander, using his presence to great effect, and Baldwin, whose diverse roles include character turns in "Working Girl," "Great Balls of Fire," "Beetlejuice" and "Married to the Mob," is fine here in the "leading-man" part.

Equally fine are Sam Neill as Connery's second-in-command and close friend, James Earl Jones as Baldwin's superior, Scott Glenn as an American submarine captain, Tim Curry as the doctor on Connery's ship, Jeffrey Jones (whose part seems snipped) as Baldwin's friend, Richard Jordan as the wry national security advisor and Courtney B. Vance as the sonar operator on Glenn's sub.

"The Hunt for Red October" is all macho heroics (there's only one female speaking part in the film, one line by Gates McFadden, of TV's "Star Trek: The Next Generation" series, in the first few minutes). But what heroics!

Rated PG for some violence and profanity, this is without question the film that will top box office charts next week.