Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Film Review: THE HUNT FOR RED OCTOBER (1990, John McTiernan)

Stars: 4.5 of 5.
Running Time: 134 minutes.
Notable Cast or Crew: Sean Connery, Alec Baldwin, Sam Neill, James Earl Jones, Stellan Skarsgard, Tim Curry, Scott Glenn, Jeffrey Jones, Peter Jason (John Carpenter fave), Andrew Divoff (Patchy on LOST).
Tag-line: "Invisible. Silent. Stolen."
Best one-liner: "Y'know, I seen me a mermaid once. I even seen me a shark eat an octopus. But I ain't never seen no phantom Russian submarine."

It's not often that I sit down to watch an action film and walk away feeling like I've attended a master's class in acting. As a political thriller, THE HUNT FOR RED OCTOBER is beyond top-notch. Director John McTiernan, fresh off the success of PREDATOR and DIE HARD, uses the widescreen frame as a canvas to paint his exquisite visuals; images flow into each other with supreme eloquence- any novice film editor would do well to watch this film.

But let me get back to the acting. Alec Baldwin, James Earl Jones, and Scott Glenn are all outstanding, but this film isn't really about the Americans, it's about the Russians.

And the Russians are so good, that it doesn't even matter that none of them are: Sean Connery (Scotland), Sam Neill (Ireland), Tim Curry (England), and Stellan Skarsgard (Sweden). Connery, Scottish accent and all, is a powerhouse. This is his movie and he carries it upon his shoulders. His and Neill's defection to the Americans is the main thrust of the film, and Connery's ironclad resolve and Neill's desire to see Montana give this film some actual emotional weight.

(And Neill's childlike excitement at coming to a land where you don't have to deal with checkpoints and papers gave me absolute chills, considering developments in the past ten years.) But I think the greatest achievement an actor can make is to bring extraordinary pathos to a role which has no business with being poignant. This honor belongs to Tim Curry, the Russian loyalist doctor.

He plays his role with such sincerity, that you almost DON'T want Connery to defect, just because Curry would be disappointed. When Connery ostensibly stays behind to "fight the Americans," Curry gets misty-eyed and commends his bravery. It was most likely even a throwaway line in the script, and Curry makes it so profound that I was almost tearing up. This is what happens when Hollywood's greatest craftsmen collaborate on a film and cast it with outstanding, genius, international actors.

-Sean Gill

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