Tuesday, August 15, 2017



#2  Run Silent, Run Deep  vs.  #3  Hunt for Red October

CHARACTER DEVELOPMENT:   “Run Silent, Run Deep” is in many ways a two man show.  It has the classic command dysfunction dynamic we see in several sub movies.  It set the template for that.  Richardson and Bledsoe are well developed.  In fact, Richardson is perhaps too well developed as he comes off as insane with his obsession with Bungo Pete.  The movie includes a scene where he is desk-bound but continually war gaming revenge against his Japanese nemesis.    Bledsoe is clearly upset that he is not promoted to command the Nerka and justifiably so.  The movie also develops two crew members.  Mueller (Jack Warren) is Richardson’s toadie and Cartwright (Brad Dexter) is the boat’s blowhard.  There is little development of the enlisted men.    GRADE  =  B

“The Hunt for Red October” revolves around two men also.  CIA analyst Jack Ryan (Alec Baldwin) gets a back-story of being a family man.  We know he is an intellectual and a neophyte when it comes to international crises.  Soviet skipper Ramius (Sean Connery) is a bit more enigmatic.  The movie is unclear as to his motivations.  It floats the idea that he is upset with his wife’s death.  He is obviously very highly respected, but it is unclear why his officers have decided to risk execution for him.  The script does an excellent job developing the sonar operator Jones (Courtney Vance) and there are several other memorable characters.  GRADE  =  B

FIRST QUARTER SCORE:  Run Silent  =  8
                                             Red October  =  8

REALISM:  The biggest flaw in “Run Silent” is its lack of realism.  This starts with the opening scene.  Richardson’s boat is sunk and the next thing we see is he is in a lifeboat.  Where did the lifeboat come from?  He is given a desk job and (with apparently no psychological review) a new boat over the obviously more qualified Bledsoe.  Then the Navy tells this Ahab not to go after Bungo Pete!  His whole tactic of working for a bow shot on a destroyer is ridiculous.  The crew’s chicken reaction to being sent to a dangerous patrol area is demeaning.  Richardson’s death and burial at sea is just bizarre.  One the plus side, the firing procedures are well done.  It’s a movie that can be picked apart if you want.  GRADE  =  D

“Red October” tries to be realistic within the parameters of an action thriller that is totally fictional.  However, if you are going to make a crowd-pleasing blockbuster set on a submarine, logic will have to take a back seat.  The whole defection scenario would be unbelievable if set in the US Navy, much less the Soviet Navy.  The sub chasing and cat-and-mouse elements are brain cell reducing.  A lowly CIA analyst becoming an action hero could only happen in Hollywood.  And the big finish is rousing, but laughable.  GRADE  =  D

HALFTIME SCORE:  Run Silent  =  13
                                   Red October  =  13

SAILOR BEHAVIOR:  My big problem with the behavior of the crew in “Run Silent” is their reaction to word that they are being sent to Area 7.  They are uniformly upset about the news.  It seems to me that at this stage of the war they would at least pretend to be tough guys.  When Richardson declines to attack a convoy, there are rumblings of discontent which change to hero-worship when he sinks a destroyer.  Later, they are happy when the sub is going to return to Pearl Harbor with almost a full load of torpedoes.  This makes little sense.  The decision of Bledsoe, supported by the other officers, to depose Richardson is believable given the situation posited by the plot.  GRADE  =  C

“Red October” is very shaky when it comes to the behavior of the Soviet officers.  It defies reason that they would all (aside from the doctor and the political officer) go along with Ramius’ suicidal plan.  The movie has little time for the crews of either sub.  Jones is the only enlisted on the Dallas that gets any significant screen time, but he does represent the modern Navy’s recruitment of the video game generation.  GRADE  =  C

THIRD QUARTER SCORE:  Run Silent  =  19
                                              Red October  =  19

ENTERTAINMENT VALUE:   “Run Silent” has two superstars going head-to-head.  This is almost enough to overcome the numerous clichés and ridiculous plot twists.  For the time it was released, it was crackerjack entertainment, but it does not hold up very well when compared to the entire subgenre.  A modern remake would fit in well in our current movie mentality since we now expect the kitchen sink approach to plotting.  You get the clash of alpha types, the mutiny, and several combat scenes for your viewing pleasure.  Unless you are a stickler for logic, it’s entertaining.  GRADE  =  B

“Red October” is based on a best-seller and has an all-star cast.  It is just as implausible as “Run Silent”, but not as laughably so.  It is more edge of your seat than the earlier film.  The hopping between various locales keeps things moving at a rapid clip.  It manages to aid chase elements to a thriller plot.  Unfortunately, in its attempt at a big finish, it ends with a preposterous sub on sub on sub encounter that exemplifies the worst of the modern Hollywood action pictures.  GRADE  =  B

FINAL SCORE:  Run Silent  =  27
                           Red October  =  27

ANALYSIS:  “Run Silent” is a classic and was appropriately seeded at #2.  Most would say it is second only to “Das Boot” in the canon of submarine warfare movies. But clear-eyed analysis can’t help but reveal that it has significant flaws.  If it would have been made with any other actors in the lead roles, its reputation would be much lower.  it is also helped by its attachment to the most famous submarine novel.  However, it is not an accurate rendering of Beach’s book.  “Red October” is modern updating of the submarine film.  Hollywood’s attempt to revive the sub film within the action movie genre was successful.  It has possibly the best cast of any sub movie and all the bells and whistles you can get with modern cinematic technology and a huge budget.  Both movies are a product of their times and reflect what was expected in a sub movie from its era.  I personally think neither is a very good movie.  Since we ended with a tie, I am going to advance “Run Silent” because it is more of a traditional sub movie.


  1. No argument here. I really did like how the movie handled the Russian language...starting out in Russian to let everyone know who they were then switching to English so they didn't have to use subtitles for the rest of the movie.

    I was a huge fan of the book, was very disappointed with the movie. I haven't read it it years...but my memory says that the book was much better.

    1. I need to reread the book. I have a feeling I would agree with you.


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