Thursday, March 21, 2013

The Hunt for Red October

1990, US, directed by John McTiernan

There's an awful lot going here -- tense developments aboard three different submarines and on board a handful of ships, as well as asides in the corridors of power in both Washington and Moscow -- but John McTiernan makes it work, carefully pacing his material and saving the biggest action thrills to near the end, while extracting remarkable tension from submarine manoeuvres that are mostly in the imagination.

Still, there are some awkward touches -- the filmmakers never quite resolve the issue of whether or not to have their Russian characters speak Russian, and while there's an elegant conceit early on to allow the Russians to begin speaking English onscreen, late on the trick comes back to cause confusion (Sean Connery sounds more Scottish than ever, though, especially when speaking Russian). And at times McTiernan appears not to trust his own instincts: Basil Poledouris's score is overblown, drowning out the dialogue at times, including in sequences where that dialogue would appear to be the main event.

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Boston, Massachusetts, United States