Hunt For Red October: Review
After re-watching Patriot Games, followed by Clear and Present Danger, I have come to a definite conclusion that despite my huge admiration for all things associated with Harrison Ford, The Hunt for Red October is undoubtedly the superior film in the entire Jack Ryan franchise.
The second and third films in the series are very good too; they just don’t compare to the original. And I can’t even begin to discuss the faults of the forth installment. Perhaps it’s because the first film is so completely different than it’s sequels. It’s set mostly aboard a nuclear submarine, which creates an intimate sense of imminent danger. The story line is enhanced rather than impaired by this restriction, keeping the focus on the immediate parties involved face to face, thereby maintaining a more consistent level of suspense. When it comes down to it October is a very exciting submarine movie dealing with the strategic games men play in war hot or cold, in or out of the water dealing largely with many of the cerebral aspects of political intrigue as much as the physical.
Of course there are some terrific action scenes in all of the Jack Ryan films, each installment actually topping the previous film in firepower, chases and explosions. However, none of the subsequent episodes quite live up to the edge of your seat underwater sequences of the first film. Unlike the later installments, October doesn’t have a lot of actual hands on fighting, or any of the other hullabaloos. But the tension of one near escape after another in this deadly game of cat and mouse is palpable and more visceral than any special effect that creates a bright light or makes a loud noise.
Another aspect of the first Jack Ryan incarnation absent in the following films is that October is not solely a “Jack Ryan” film. October relies heavily on the abilities of its talented and well-credited ensemble, one that is quite possibly the most attractive male cast ever assembled. Besides Alec Baldwin in his one and only turn as Ryan there is Sean Connery and Sam Neill as two of the sexiest Russians ever captured on screen, and an incredibly virile Scott Glenn as a less than trusting American sub commander. Not only are these men compelling eye candy but they are all accomplished actors who are nothing less than electric when performing together. Throw in James Earl Jones, Courtney B. Vance and Tim Curry and you’ve got a film I can watch over, and over, and over again.
And of course, October offers the best ending of the three films. (MILD SPOILER ALERT!) After a lot of tit for tat deception, Ryan helps execute a grand ruse that ensures the playing field of World Power will remain level - at least for now. The ending manages a tricky accomplishment: it satisfies while it entices, leaving the audience content and wanting more. All films should be required to do the same, if not at least attempt it.