There’s nothing quite like a Sean Connery film. No matter the role, his Connery-ness shines right through. Whether he’s a British secret agent, an Irish-American fighting Al Capone or a Russian submarine captain, you’re pretty much watching the same performance over and over. And if you’re a fan, that works well.
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The Hunt for Red October saw Connery play the pivotal role of Captain Marko Ramius in the adaptation of the best-selling Tom Clancy novel of the same name. Ramius commands a state-of-the-art Russian submarine, and chooses to defect to the US at the height of the Cold War. Alec Baldwin, in the role of Clancy’s signature character Jack Ryan, arrives to help Raimus defect and bring the Russian sub to an American port.
The book and the subsequent film adaptation were the beginning of the Jack Ryan franchise, which has since seen Harrison Ford and Ben Affleck play him as well as Chris Pine playing him in an upcoming film. Ryan is an accomplished member of the CIA, eventually becoming Deputy Director of Central Intelligence and even President of the United States in the books. In the movies, he is the American answer to James Bond, a perfect Cold War soldier using intelligence and data to face down the looming threats.
The cast was loaded with outstanding actors, including Sam Neill, Tim Curry and James Earl Jones. Star Trek alumnus Gate McFadden appears as Ryan’s wife prior to her Next Generation days. While Connery pretty much plays himself as a Russian submarine captain, he fills the role well with his usual boisterous gravitas. Alec Baldwin does a great job as Jack Ryan, though I have to admit I prefer Harrison Ford. That might just be a personal bias more than anything. And they’re both better than Ben Affleck at the role.
Hell, a sock full of quarters would have made a better Jack Ryan than Ben Affleck did at that point in his career.
The Hunt for Red October is an especially poignant, gripping technothriller. The game being played amongst a variety of parties is skilfully executed, simultaneously cunning and deceptive. It’s one of those “when you zig, it zags” kind of stories. More impressive than that is how well this movie holds up 23 years later.
Even though the Cold War is long over, The Hunt for Red October is still as relevant and engaging as ever.