Ty Burr
October 26, 1990 AT 04:00 AM EDT

The Hunt for Red October

Current Status
In Season
Anne Archer, Alec Baldwin, Sean Connery, Harrison Ford, Jeffrey Jones
John McTiernan
Paramount Pictures
ActionAdventure, Mystery and Thriller, Drama

We gave it a B+

It’s hard to imagine a movie megahit less suited for the TV screen than The Hunt for Red October. Everything about it is massive: a huge cast strewn all over the map, a plot that’s global in scale, and pacing as methodical as a submarine making a turn. On the big screen, Red October took over your senses — the tiniest sonar ping became a matter of life-and-death import.

Shrunk to fit your TV, though, the movie loses its majesty. In the theater, the underwater sub maneuvers seemed awesome and balletic — like watching whales mate — but on the set they’re a blur of blue murk. The subs’ interiors are no better: The overwhelming red lighting creates the effect of viewing through a bowl of cherry Jell-O.

But if Red October‘s epic sense is missing, there are consolations in the story. One of the chief pleasures here is the way male professionalism is presented at its seat-of-the-pants, strategy-minded best. The sharply drawn characters — Sean Connery’s godlike Captain Ramius, Alec Baldwin’s plucky CIA whiz kid, Scott Glenn’s cautious U.S. commander — are shown in all their cat- and-mouse machinations. It’s fascinating precisely because most movies never let you see people think. Though the video version suffers a loss of visual impact, Red October is the rare adventure flick that respects the viewer’s intelligence. B+

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