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‘The Hunt for Red October’ (PG)

By Desson Howe
Washington Post Staff Writer
March 02, 1990

If you're miffed because the Cold War's over, Ceausescu's dead, the Sandinistas lost the election in Nicaragua and it seems like there's no one around to hate any more, then maybe "The Hunt for Red October" is just the thing.

With its bad, treacherous Soviets on the one side (played mostly by Brits), its freedom-loving Americans on the other, and an indeterminate number of good Russian defectors in between -- brought to you by a certain military-industrial-complex alliance of Paramount, Industrial Light & Magic, director John ("Die Hard") McTiernan, and the U.S. Navy -- this is a Reagan youth's wet dream of underwater ballistics and East-West conflict.

The film's pretty good for Alec Baldwin and Sean Connery fans too. Baldwin, our capitalist flavor of the month, heads the American side, as a CIA analyst-cum-GQ-voyager who has to take charge in a national crisis: A Soviet nuclear submarine called Red October has suddenly disappeared from U.S. scanners and seems to be headed for an attack on the United States. But even as the Americans, including CIA naval operations chief James Earl Jones, sea captain Scott Glenn, national security advisor Richard Jordan and sonar operator Courtney B. Vance (in a rather nice performance as a classical-music fanatic), scramble to take defensive measures, Baldwin is convinced there's more to this than a first strike.

Connery, who heads the Soviet side (namely Joss Ackland, Sam Neill and Peter Firth), pulls the usual strong performance out of a military hat as Red October's enigmatic Captain Marko Alexandrovich Ramius. But he unintentionally creates the movie's greatest mystery: How is it that a Lithuanian submarine captain speaks in such a thick Scottish accent?

Is Baldwin's hunch right or is Connery's sub going to nuke America? Haven't they read the newspapers lately? And what is "The Rocky Horror Picture Show's" Tim Curry doing in this movie? (He's a Russian ship's doctor.)

To go deeper into plot waters would reveal too much in this submarine thriller; if you don't like to be vicariously underwater for a long time, be prepared for a lot of narrative water-treading, as the various forces wait for the big bang. And if you've had it up to here with movies about little big men and their war toys, well, you already know not to get your feet wet in the first place.

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