Thursday, August 3, 2017

#3 The Hunt for Red October vs. Submarine Command


PLOT:  “The Hunt for Red October” is an big budget action feature based on a Tom Clancey best seller.  A renowned Soviet sub commander Ramius (Sean Connery) decides to defect to the West taking his state of the art sub with him.  The Red October has a revolutionary new propulsion system that allows it to run quietly.  It also has a boat-load of nuclear missiles.  When the entire Soviet navy is mobilized to chase it, a CIA analyst named Jack Ryan (Alec Baldwin) convinces the US Navy to facilitate the defection.  He goes aboard an American attack sub to try to make contact with the traitorous Soviet before a Soviet attack sub can end his plan to bring peace and harmony to the world.  If this plot sounds unrealistic, you have not even heard the details necessary to make a sub movie into a thrill ride.  The dominoes drop at an increasingly ludicrous rate.  GRADE  =  C

Submarine Command” starts in WWII and ends in Korea.  An exec (William Holden) is forced to dive leaving his wounded skipper topside.  This incident, on the last day of the war, leaves White with a guilt trip that makes him a gloomy Gus and hard to be married to.  What he needs is a redemptive war and along comes Korea.  The Tiger Shark is brought out of moth balls for a commando raid that is crucial to our war effort.  This is more of a character study than a sub movie and the character is not interesting.  It has a lot of soap opera in it and it’s a very small world for the main characters.  And these characters are put in some unbelievable situations.  GRADE  =  D

FIRST QUARTER SCORE:  Hunt for Red October  =  6
                                             Submarine Command  =  5

ACTING:  “Red October” has an all-star cast and they come through.  Kudos for keeping straight faces through the shenanigans.  Alec Baldwin was the first Jack Ryan and does a good job as the reluctant action hero.  Connery is the unflappable Soviet captain who is godlike.  Acting honors go to Courtney Vance as the ace sonar man who happens to be black.  No biggie in the modern US Navy.   GRADE  =  A

“Submarine Command” has a decent cast of recognizable actors if you are a baby boomer.  Unfortunately, they mostly phone it in. Holden is wooden in a schmaltzy role that requires him to whine like a beaten puppy.  The cast includes William Bendix who is forced to play a man who illogically hates White for “sacrificing” the captain.  Like he’s never seen a sub movie before.  And we get Don Taylor playing his usual flirtatious flyboy.  GRADE  =  C

HALFTIME SCORE:  Hunt for Red October  =  15
                                   Submarine Command  =  11

TACTICS:  There is some crazy shit that happens in “Red October”.  Significantly, the movie credits did not include a technical adviser.  Some of the things Ramius does with the Red October indicate he is either insanely confident or he read the script.  The other officers are constantly looking at him like he is going to get them all killed - which he would have if the movie was based on reality.  That boat can turn on a dime as it races through an undersea canyon.  Lucky for him that his protégé can’t hit a stationary sub.  GRADE  =  C

“Submarine Command” does not spend a lot of time at sea, but when it does it is shaky.  We do get to see the Tiger Fish rescue a downed pilot.  That is a nice touch and a sub job that is seldom seen in movies.  The attack on the convoy occurs at night and the boat submerges before firing.  That is a bit timid for that late in the war, but not tactically unsound.  Then they surface to pick up survivors with no concern for escorts or aircraft.  That is harder to justify and gets the CO killed.  The movie really mucks it up in the closing act.  The sub comes fully to the surface to send a message and gets hit by a shore battery.  Stupid.  GRADE  =  D

THIRD QUARTER SCORE:  Hunt for Red October  =  21
                                               Submarine Command  =  16

CLICHES:  In “Red October” the USS Dallas is sent on a secret mission to make contact with the Red October.  It has a black on board, but he is not a steward.  There is a very brief conflict between Ramius and the political officer.  Since it is not a typical sub movie, it avoids most of the clichés.  GRADE  =  A

“Submarine Command” does not spend a lot of time at sea, but it makes up for it with some classic clichés.  The captain is left on deck.  The Tiger Shark is sent on a special mission that involves landing commandoes.  The sub goes through a mine field and a mine cable scrapes its side.  

FINAL SCORE:  Hunt for Red October  =  30
                           Submarine Command  =  22

ANALYSIS:  “Submarine Command” is a terrible movie so this outcome is no surprise.  There is a lot of stupid in it.  It is either ashore for a lame soap opera of asea for clicheish developments that lack suspense or believability.  “The Hunt for Red October” is probably more preposterous, but at least it is all in.  It wins handily, but that does not make it a great sub movie.  It has too much action blockbuster in it.  It’s audience is not war movie lovers and it shows, especially in the ludicrous finale that would be silly even in a sci-fi movie.  

1 comment:

  1. Totally agree! I was disappointed in Hunt...I had enjoyed the book so much. Didn't feel the movie had captured the spirit of the book.


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