Greatest Movie Series
Franchises of All Time
The "Jack Ryan" Films

The Hunt for Red October (1990)

Jack Ryan Films
The Hunt for Red October (1990) | Patriot Games (1992) | Clear and Present Danger (1994)
The Sum of All Fears (2002)

The "Jack Ryan" Films - Part I
The Hunt for Red October (1990)
d. John McTiernan, 134 minutes

Film Plot Summary

The film's preface stated that in 1984, a Typhoon-class Soviet submarine surfaced near the Grand Banks off Nova Scotia, and then sank in deep water, apparently suffering a radiation problem, while some of the crew were rescued. But according to other US and Soviet government reports, nothing happened of "what you are about to see."

From the Soviet submarine base near Murmansk, the newest Soviet Navy ballistic submarine, named the Red October, launched to sea, captained by Marko Ramius (Sean Connery). In London, England, CIA researcher/analyst Jack Ryan (Alec Baldwin), after leaving his wife Caroline and 5 year-old daughter Sally, flew from Heathrow Airport to Washington, DC. where he met with Vice Admiral James Greer (James Earl Jones) in CIA headquarters. He reported that British Intelligence had taken pictures of the Soviet Navy's new submarine, captained by veteran Ramius, who had taken out the lead boat in each new Soviet sub class in the last ten years, had good political connections, and had trained most of their attack boat skippers.

Captain Marko Ramius met with his Political Officer Ivan Putin (Peter Firth) in his cabin, where they jointly opened a safe to look at the sub's orders. They were to rendezvous with the Konovalov, an Alpha-class attack sub captained by Captain Tupolev (Stellan Skarsgård). Suddenly, Ramius murdered Putin, substituted his own plans, and then explained to the ship's doctor Yevgeniy Petrov (Tim Curry) and cook's assistant Igor Loginov (Tomas Arana) how there had been a tragic accident - Putin had supposedly died by slipping on tea and hitting his head. Ramius then had the doctor and cook's assistant Igor Loginov (Tomas Arana) witness him removing the dead officer's missile key, granting himself sole power to arm the missiles. He then addressed the crew on their maiden voyage with his own orders -- "a game of chess against our old adversary, the American Navy." Explaining that they now had the advantage with their silent caterpillar drive, he boasted: "We will leave our fleet behind. We will pass through the American patrols, pass their sonar nets, and lay off their largest city and listen to their rock 'n roll while we conduct missile drills." Afterwards, they would sail to Havana, Cuba for sun, comradeship, and shore leave.

At US Naval yards in Maryland, Jack Ryan met with submarine engineering expert 'Skip' Tyler (Jeffrey Jones), and learned that the submarine doors in the photographs meant that the Red October was equipped with a unique and revolutionary propulsion system known as a magneto-hydrodynamic drive (aka caterpillar drive), an ultra-quiet jet engine in the water that was undetectable. He warned: "This thing could park a couple of hundred warheads off Washington and New York and no one would know anything about it until it was all over." As Marko engaged his caterpillar drive, it passed undetected by the USS Dallas, a US attack submarine, captained by Bart Mancuso (Scott Glenn) who was tracking the Red October. Its skilled Sonar Technician Ronald "Jonesy" Jones (Courtney Vance), who could analyze subtle differences in sonar readings, realized that it had somehow broken away and vanished. [Jones later reported to Capt. Mancuso that the "phantom submarine" was headed for the Iceland coast and an underwater canyon landmark called Thor's Twins, and they took a pursuit course after it.]

In the Red Fleet headquarters in Moscow, the Soviet director Adm. Yuri Padorin (Marko's deceased wife's uncle) received a shocking letter from Captain Ramius [later revealed to trigger a meeting between Padorin and Soviet Premier Chernenko, resulting in orders for much of the Soviet fleet to sail, find the Red October, and sink it]. Vice Admiral James Greer showed Ryan a recent "Eyes Only" report about the deployment of the Soviet fleet. They both attended a briefing before the President's National Security Advisor Jeffrey Pelt (Richard Jordan) and the Joint Chiefs of Staff, where Ryan presented slides and warned how the newly-equipped Red October could be rendered undetectable to the US' SOSUS warning nets in the Atlantic. There was the possibility it was a "first-strike weapon" that could attack with little or no warning within four days. The Soviet reaction was to send 58 nuclear submarines into the Atlantic area, and prepare to deploy other cruisers and destroyers. It was unclear whether the response could be a military exercise, or a challenge to NATO by a "madman."

Ryan theorized with another possibility - that maverick Captain Marko, Lithuanian by birth, was trying to defect, with men personally selected and willing to help him as crew members, on the first anniversary of his wife's death. Ryan suggested finding a way to get onboard the vessel to inspect it or to have contact with Ramius and find out his real intentions. NSA's Pelt proposed that Ryan had three days for his mission - otherwise Pelt said the US would have to sink it: "I have to hunt down Ramius and destroy him." Meanwhile, Soviet Captain Tupolov of the Alpha-class sub Konovalov was given orders to also pursue the Red October in the North Atlantic, as he told his associate: "We are going to kill Ramius."

In a secret dinner with his top officers, including second in command Captain Vasily Borodin (Sam Neill), Captain Marko listened as they discussed their shock at Putin's murder: "If the crew finds out, we could have a mutiny." Marko then told them the contents of his letter to Adm. Padorin - their intention to defect, as Ryan had surmised, causing others to correctly worry: "You have signed our death warrants...Padorin will send the entire fleet..They'll find us and hunt us down." The captain calmly explained how they had "one chance in three" to survive. Later, he told Borodin: "Moscow is not the worry, nor the whole Soviet Navy. I know their tactics. I have the advantage. No. The worry is the Americans. If we meet the right sort, this will work. We get some buckaroo..."

Ryan traveled by plane to the aircraft carrier USS Enterprise, part of the North Atlantic Fleet, commanded by Rear Admiral Joshua Painter (Fred Thompson), who respected the fact that Ryan had been a Marine officer and a Naval Academy graduate when serious injuries in a chopper accident forced him to study from the hospital during his fourth year. Ryan suddenly realized that he only had to discover how Ramius was going to convince his crew to get off the nuclear sub.

During the Red October's journey, the cryogenic plant failed (with no suspected core damage or radiation leakage) and the temperature in the caterpillar drive dangerously rose - it was forced to be shut down. Captain Ramius ordered their journey to continue, knowing that they could now be detected by a low-flying, anti-submarine US turboprop aircraft and by sonar buoys. When a torpedo was deployed by the aircraft, the Red October readied itself at battle stations, and Ramius successfully evaded it. But then an investigation reported that an onboard saboteur had ripped out the buffer circuit of the caterpillar drive. Ramius' plan was to reach Maine or Massachusetts within 48 hours.

Throughout the film, NSA Advisor Pelt engaged in continuing talks with the Soviet Ambassador Andrei Lysenko (Joss Ackland), who first falsely claimed that the increased Soviet presence in the Atlantic was due to their massive rescue operation to locate the lost submarine Red October. Fearful of war, Pelt was wary when the ambassador asked for US assistance, and he replied: "Prudence demands that we deploy our ships to observe yours." A line of Russian submarines off the East Coast US ports was troubling, as well as a massive row of attack subs and surface vessels in the North Atlantic - too much firepower for a simple rescue mission. The Soviet strategy appeared to be driving Ramius toward the East Coast where he would be sunk by the subs ("The hounds to the hunters").

Ryan requested a risky helicopter ride to the well-positioned attack submarine USS Dallas, believing that Capt. Mancuso had found the Red October. In fact, diligent SONAR operator "Jonesey" was aware that the sub he was targeting was located nearby.

In a subsequent meeting with NSA Advisor Pelt, the Soviet Ambassador confessed that his first report about a missing sub was not completely accurate. Now, it was falsely claimed that Captain Ramius was suffering a nervous breakdown, and just before he sailed had sent a letter, declaring his intention to fire his missiles on the US. The ambassador requested help from the US President to hunt Captain Ramius down and kill him -- this led to the orders that Captain Mancuso was to receive.

At the same time that Ryan was being delivered to the USS Dallas, after dangerously ending up in the water, Captain Mancuso received orders from the National Command Authority to sink the Soviet Typhoon-class submarine Red October, captained by a "potential renegade (who) threatens independent missile launch." Ryan explained his understanding that Captain Ramius was attempting to defect, contrary to Mancuso's knowledge.

As the battle stations were manned and readied on the USS Dallas, Ryan spoke for two minutes to Capt. Mancuso, convincing him that the Soviets wanted to sink Ramius' submarine: "The Russians will stop at nothing to prevent Ramius from defecting," and they desperately wanted US help to sink him. Ryan urged contact with Ramius: "Give the man a chance." When the torpedo tube doors were opened, and Mancuso was ready to shoot, Ramius responded by flooding his torpedo tubes without opening his doors - to avoid prokoking the US vessel. At periscope depth, both submarines communicated with each other through Morse code and sonar pings. Ryan sent a message that if the Russians were defecting, they should plot a new course south to the Laurentian Abyssal (beyond the Grand Banks).

As they approached the Grand Banks, Ramius with his Chief Engineer staged a false reactor overload, caused by a leak in the primary coolant tube - to create a dangerous situation of spreading contaminated coolant. The Red October surfaced to ventilate with outside air, and to urgently get the men evacuated to the deck where emergency rafts would be deployed. The ship's doctor again suspected sabotage. At first, the plan was to rotate officers into the ship every 20 minutes, but then US frigate warship Reuben James was spotted approaching on the horizon -- warning the Red October not to submerge or face being fired upon. Ramius then ordered only his loyal officers to join him in the Red October as the rest of the crew were ordered off. He would self-sacrificially "scuttle the ship." A warning shot was fired from the frigate, and a Seahawk helicopter was launched from the frigate with orders to fire its torpedo at the fleeing sub. However, at only 300 yards distance, Vice Admiral Greer (on the Reuben James) deliberately and prematurely self-destructed the torpedo, and then ordered that it be reported that the sub had been hit - as a ploy to convince the rescued Soviet crew members that their sub was under attack ("The Captain is fighting the Americans").

The USS Dallas was given the "go" signal to launch the DSRV (Deep Submergence Rescue Vehicle) Mystic and travel to the Red October - onboard were Ryan, Mancuso, "Jonesy" and others. They sealed themselves to the Red October, connected hatches, and boarded the Soviet submarine, and there was a tense stand-off at first. Ramius formally turned over the submarine to the Americans, and then officially request asylum for his officers and himself in the US. As the request was accepted, another torpedo was heard - this time from the pursuing Soviet submarine the Konovalov, captained by Tupolev, although it missed because of the wrong target range. When a second torpedo was fired, Ramius ordered a maneuvering tactic that seemed fool-hardy - to steer directly into its path. However, it succeeded because the torpedo had no time to arm itself with the decreased distance gap.

And then, the Red October's saboteur opened fire on board, and fatally wounded Borodin, who died saying: "I would like to have seen Montana." The killer fled into the missile launch area, where he had the capability of blowing up one of the missiles and the entire submarine. As Mancuso took command, he realized that the fire control system of the Red October was damaged, so it was unable to defend itself. Ramius and Ryan went in pursuit of the saboteur before he reached the ignition circuits, while the Konovalov prepared to fire an armed third torpedo. Ramius was shot and wounded, leaving Ryan to search out the saboteur and kill him - after discovering his identity, cook's assistant Igor Loginov. Using evasive maneuvers and positioning, the Red October was able to get behind the Konovalov and cause the torpedo to destroy it ("You arrogant ass. You've killed us"). The rescued Soviet crew believed the explosion to be of the Red October. The Soviet ambassador knew of the destroyed Soviet submarine, and then haltingly reported to Pelt that they had lost a 'second' submarine, in the area of the Grand Banks.

At the Penobscot River near Maine, the Red October found a safe haven where it could hide, 100 miles from the nearest naval base, "the last place that satellites will ever look." It was an area where Ryan had grown up and fished. Ramius told Ryan that the Red October had been built for one purpose - to destroy the US, and that objective had been thwarted: "Maybe something good will come from it. A little revolution now and then is a healthy thing, don't you think?" The film ended with Ramius quoting from Christopher Columbus: "And the sea will grant each man new hope, as sleep brings dreams of home." Ryan replied: "Welcome to the New World, sir."

Ryan returned home, sleeping on his trans-Atlantic flight this time, with a large teddy bear next to him - a gift promised to his daughter.

Film Notables (Awards, Facts, etc.)

Based upon author Tom Clancy's first published novel, in 1984, the first book to feature Jack Ryan.

With three Academy Award Oscar nominations and one win: Best Sound Effects Editing (win), also Best Film Editing (nomination) and Best Sound (nomination).

With a production budget of approximately $30 million, and box-office gross receipts of $122 million (domestic) and $200 million (worldwide).

Red October Captain
Marko Ramius
(Sean Connery)

Vice Admiral James Greer
(James Earl Jones)

Dr. Jack Ryan
(Alec Baldwin)

Red October Political Officer
Ivan Putin
(Peter Firth)

'Skip' Tyler
(Jeffrey Jones)

Red October Medical Officer
Dr. Yevgeniy Petrov
(Tim Curry)

Red October Captain
Vasily Borodin
(Sam Neill)

Red October Cook's Assistant
Igor Loginov
(Tomas Arana)

USS Dallas Commander
Bart Mancuso
(Scott Glenn)

USS Dallas Sonar Technician Ronald "Jonesy" Jones
(Courtney Vance)

USS Enterprise Rear Admiral Joshua Painter
(Fred Thompson)

NSA Jeffrey Pelt
(Richard Jordan)

Soviet Ambassador
Andrei Lysenko
(Joss Ackland)

Konovalov Captain Tupolev
(Stellan Skarsgård)

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