The Hunt for Red October

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"RIGHT FULL RUDDER!"
Captain 1st Rank Marko Ramius

The first and most famous novel by Tom Clancy, first published in 1984 and adapted reasonably closely into a 1990 film starring Sean Connery (playing the Lithuanian captain) and Alec Baldwin, playing Jack Ryan.

It's a Cold War tale of the fictional "Typhoon" class missile submarine Krasniy Oktyabr ("Red October"). In the film, the sub has an experimental magnetohydrodynamic propulsion system (more easily referred to as Caterpillar Drive, and in the book it's just a ducted tunnel drive -- basically a scaled up jet ski engine), which allows it to run more quietly than any other ship at sea; effectively making it nigh-invisible to SONAR detection. On its first deployment, Captain Marko Ramius murders his political officer, taking his set of keys for the October's nuclear missiles. Conspiring with his senior officers, Ramius notifies his crew that they will be testing the ship by evading both the U.S. and Soviet navies to reach the eastern coast of the United States itself...

Not desiring to lose their sub or the secret of the Caterpillar Drive, the Soviets send their surface and attack-sub fleets after it, an amount of activity that's suspicious to the other side.

The Americans must find the sub before it is destroyed, assuming that CIA analyst Jack Ryan is right that the officers plan to defect - as opposed to just unilaterally launching their missiles...

The Typhoon-class submarine is real, and the largest submarine in the world. The submarine in the story, though, is quite considerably different to its real-life counterpart, to the point where they can't really be considered the same vessel, mainly because of its fictional "silent" propulsion system. On the other hand, the film maintains Plausible Deniability by specifically stating it to be a prototype variant of its class, and at least alludes to future Soviet political instability as a good reason why they never got around to producing more.


Examples of The Hunt for Red October include:

The book contains examples of:[edit | hide | hide all]

  • Anti-Mutiny: The GRU mole.
  • Awesomeness By Analysis: Seaman Jones. In just a few hours, he finds a way to beat the Red October's top secret stealth propulsion system and track the sub.
  • Badass Bookworm: Jack Ryan: CIA academic and retired Marine, with a doctorate in history. He also speaks Russian, but only in the film.
  • Badass Bureaucrat: Jack Ryan starts as this. He is considered completely incorruptible and can figure out any riddle that international politics can bring to bear.
  • Based on a True Story: the story was inspired by a real-life mutiny on board a Soviet frigate (the Storozhevoy, mentioned in the book) in 1975, but differs in several key respects from it.
  • Big Damn Heroes: in the movie, the Dallas swoops in to drop a couple of decoys and save the Red October.
  • Bothering by the Book: The President had the Attorney General had dug up some precedents in maritime law that would have granted America the right to keep the Red October until such time as the Russians paid the US Government a finder's fee as determined by a salvage court - which had a one year backlog of cases to go through before even attempting to assess how much the Russians would have to fork over to get their sub back. However, since the Navy and CIA worked out a plan to trick the Russians into thinking that the Red October had been destroyed, this trope never got past the planning stage.
    • Before the final 'fake its destruction' plan the Justice Department was also working on plans to use the narcotics trafficking laws and impound the submarine for a full search-and-seizure the instant it entered American waters, as another delaying tactic to avoid having to give it back until they were finished examining it.
  • Bunny Ears Lawyer: Jones is described as weird even by Navy sub sonarman standards.
  • The Captain: Bart Mancuso of the USS Dallas, and Marco Ramius of the Red October.
  • Chekhov's Gunman: Loginov, the cook's assistant who witnessed Ramius taking the political officer's keys, is the GRU sleeper agent.
  • CIA Evil, FBI Good: Mostly averted though it is acknowledged that the CIA does some Dirty Business.
  • The Consigliere: Jeffrey Pelt is the President's National Security Advisor.
  • Daddy's Girl: Jack Ryan always remembers to get his daughter a present, even when busy saving the world.
  • Death by Falling Over: How Ramius disposes of Putin.
  • Defector From Decadence: See It's Personal.
  • Everyone Knows Morse: Justified to some extent: the British Signals Officer is the one who sends the message via blinker from HMS Invincible to the Red October. It is described as a slow and rather jerky process since the officer is a bit rusty at it, even after having gone and given himself a refresher beforehand because they'd planned in advance to use Morse. On the other hand, Ramius knowing Morse is entirely believable, since he's from an older school of military.
  • Expy: Andre Narmonov is one for Soviet premier Konstatin Chereneko; when he died 11 months after taking office, later novels would turn him into an expy of Gorbachev.
  • Feed the Mole: The CIA uses Henderson to feed the KGB false data about the operation to acquire the titular submarine of the novel.
  • Four-Star Badass: Admiral Greer
  • Heroic Sacrifice: Played with in that the crew of the Red October end up believing Ramius and the officers scuttled the sub to prevent its capture by the Americans.
    • Ramius' second in command plays this straight; pushing him out of the way of the GRU agent and taking a fatal bullet for his troubles.
  • History Marches On: The fall of the Iron Curtain led to the revelation that a number of Clancy's guesses about the Soviet stuff were completely wrong:
    • The Storozhevoy, the Real Life basis for the story, is mentioned in the novel as attempting to defect to the West. The political officer who led the mutiny (and was later shot) was actually attempting to mimic the actions of the Avrora in 1917: sail into Leningrad, denounce the cronyism of the Brezhnev regime, and demand reform among Leninist lines.
    • Zampoliti didn't have authority over combat matters, were strictly subordinate to the commanding officer, and functioned similarly to a chaplain in a Western military.
    • Most Soviet vessels weren't named; then again, The Hunt for K-139 doesn't really sing or dance.
    • The reactor accident that sinks the first Alfa would be impossible; they used a liquid metal cooled nuclear reactor that wasn't pressurized. Ironically, the use of a liquid metal plant rather than an American-style pressurized water reactor is mentioned as a faulty guess by U.S. military intelligence.
  • Hot Sub-On-Sub Action
  • If I Wanted You Dead...: The Americans, being understandably nervous about the Soviet fleet off their shores, give them several such moments, with the Crowning Moment of Awesome being having four A-10 Warthogs zoom in under the radar horizon and box the Kirov with flares.
  • It's Personal: In the book Ramius' main motive was to punish the state for the fact that his wife had died in a botched operation directed by a surgeon who had got the job from Party Patronage. The movie emphasized his desire to prevent nuclear war; perhaps it was quite reasonably felt that the audience would prefer a more grand motive for treason than revenge even if it was treason against an enemy.
    • Not only was his wife's routine operation botched, but the "antibiotics" given to correct the botch were Soviet-manufactured "bonus" drugs. (In Clancy's version of the USSR at least, the workers are given a bonus for exceeding quota, and those products produced just to make quota were often poor or fraudulent, bypassing quality control completely). Further, what he considers the greatest crime is the State's suppression of religion that robbed him of a "hope, even if it was a lie" of seeing his wife again.
  • The Medic: Doctor Petrov, naive but caring about his men, as well as a good officer who keeps order when the Red October is being evacuated. A quite Worthy Opponent -- in the movie, anyway, where he's played by Tim Curry. In the book he's described as being a doctor of dubious competence.
  • Mnogo Nukes
  • Mr. Fixit: Skip Tyler
  • The Mutiny: Inverted. An American officer calls it a mutiny only to be told that mutiny is when the crew rises against officers. The officers trying to steal their ship is barratry.
  • Name's the Same: Jack Ryan.
  • Nerds Are Sexy: It's stated the ship's sonar officer, despite not being hugely attractive, gets a lot of "action" on shore leave.
  • A Nuclear Error: Averted Trope -- it's specifically stated that A) if he had wanted to and were capable of doing so, Ramius could have launched from right outside the harbor and his missiles would still have enough range to hit the U.S. and B) Soviet controls against a rogue launch are even stricter than their NATO equivalents.
  • The Political Officer
  • Ramming Always Works: Justified by Red October lacking enough manpower to fire torpedoes and Ramius' expert knowledge of how Soviet submarines handle, being effectively the submarine captain version of a test pilot for new designs. And because they plan to dissect the sub anyway so a little damage is less of a big deal.
  • Reporting Names: A Soviet officer is asked what his sub is actually called and doesn't answer - in case you wanted to know, a Victor-III.
  • Saving Christmas: What a time for a possible World War III! It would have to happen then, now wouldn't it?
  • The Smart Guy: Submarine warfare is probably the geekiest form of war yet invented by mankind and this book is practically an orgy of smartness. Nevertheless Seaman Jones the sonarman is closest to the classic model, with the Executive Officer of the Dallas mentally commenting that Seaman Jones has the highest IQ on the boat by a healthy margin.
  • Spared by the Adaptation: Lt. Kamarov.
  • Stock British Phrases: Tom Clancy's attempts at writing dialogue for the British character fall short of reality.
  • The Strategist: Ramius, whose plan sets everything in motion. Jeffrey Pelt, Admiral Greer, and to some degree Jack Ryan. And the unnamed President who does not show up in the movie.
  • Technology Porn: Several pieces of military hardware in the US (and Russian, to a lesser extent) get paragraphs of description.
  • Techno Wizard : Seaman Jones
  • Your Princess Is in Another Castle: The titular Hunt is called off about 80% through after the October's apparent going down. Cue a lingering Soviet attack sub.

The film contains examples of:[edit | hide]

(Ramius sees Mancuso's sidearm and says to Borodin that Mancuso is a бакару (sounds just like the English "buckaroo"). Ryan laughs.)
Capt. Bart Mancuso: What's so funny?
Jack Ryan: Ah, the Captain seems to think you're some kind of...cowboy.

  • The Artifact: When Ryan is trying to convince his superiors that Ramius is defecting to the United States, he mentions that "today is the first anniversary of his wife's death." This has nothing to do with anything in the movie, as it happens, but is a reference to Ramius' motive for defection in the book (see It's Personal above).
  • Asshole Victim: Political Officer Putin, according to 2nd. Lt. Victor Slavin.
  • Audience Surrogate:
    • Seaman Beaumont early on. Seaman Jones is able to deliver quite a bit of exposition to the audience while training him.
    • Once they arrive on the Red October, Jack Ryan takes on this role, having the situation explained to him by Mancuso and Ramius.
  • Awesomeness By Analysis: Jonesy

A torpedo passes by the sub just after Ramius and Mancuso share a handshake
Russian Sailor (in English): Another torpedo. The Americans are shooting at us again!
Seaman Jones: Pitch is too high. The torpedo's Russian.

  • Backed by the Pentagon: The scenes on the flight deck were shot on the actual Enterprise. Scott Glenn (Mancuso) also spent a month aboard USS Salt Lake City where he was treated as though he was the commanding officer. According to director John McTiernan he came back completely different, very soft-spoken and calm, with a manner he described as being similar to a college president.
  • Badass Boast:

Kamarov: Stop pissing, Yuri. Give me a stopwatch and a map, and I'll fly the Alps in a plane with no windows.

Jones Way to go, Dallas!

Steiner: Hey, I think someone's shooting torpedoes!
Mancuso: No shit, buckwheat! Get the hell out of here!

  • Character as Himself: Stanley the stuffed toy Teddy bear is listed "as himself" in the end credits.
  • Coming in Hot: With the aid of anachronistic Stock Footage and Eject! Eject! Eject! instruction heard from the tower.
  • Compressed Adaptation: The movie gets rid of the British role entirely, ditches the Feed the Mole sideplot and most of the fleet-level conflict between the U.S. and Soviets, and cuts out most of Clancy's rhapsodizing about the intricacies of sub warfare.
  • Cunning Linguist: Jack Ryan.
  • Cut Himself Shaving: An inconvenient political officer "slips on his tea."
  • Death by Adaptation: Borodin.
  • Description Cut: Ramius mentions to Borodin that a "buckaroo" will be sent to meet them - and we immediately cut to Ryan in the plane, bouncing about uncomfortably in the turbulence.
  • Everyone Knows Morse: Mancuso sends Morse messages to Ramius (watching by periscope) with a light blinker, asking for an active sonar ping to signal Ramius' agreement. It's at least discussed, as Mancuso says, "My Morse is so rusty, I could be sending him dimensions on Playmate of the Month."
  • Eureka Moment: When Ryan figures out the last part of Ramius' plan. "How do you make a crew want to get off a nuclear subma..."
  • Expospeak Gag: Teaching Beaumont to use the sonar, Seaman Jones describes the contact he's found as a "biologic":

Beaumont: A what?
Jones: A whale, Seaman Beaumont, a whale. A marine mammal that knows a heck of a lot more about sonar than you do.

Seaman Jones: Pitch is too high. The torpedo's Russian.

  • If I Wanted You Dead...: Subverted in the film, after the Red October evades a torpedo launched from a Soviet anti-submarine patrol plane, one of the crew asks "Why's our own navy shooting at us?" and is told by the first officer "If they were really shooting at us, we'd be dead."
  • I'm a Doctor, Not a Placeholder: Ryan to Ramius:

Ramius: Ryan, sit here.
Ryan: I'm not a naval officer, I'm with the CIA!
Ramius: CIA?
Ryan: I'm not an agent, I just write books for the CIA!
Ramius: ...whatever.

  • I Was Never Here: "Now understand, Commander: That torpedo did not self-destruct. You heard it hit the hull. And I... was never here."
  • Lzherusskie
  • Meaningful Background Event: After the Soviet Bear bomber drops its torpedo [1], the co-pilot looks towards the pilot with a horrified look on his face.
  • Misguided Missile: Thanks to some clever maneuvering and disengaged torpedo safeties, and a bit of help from Dallas, the Red October manages to string around a pursuing torpedo so that it hits the very attack sub that fired it.
  • Mr. Exposition: Jones while explaining all sorts of basics of sonar and sub tactics to Beaumont, some of which anyone on board a sub ought to already know.
  • Nausea Dissonance: Ryan hates flying because of turbulence. When he's on a turbulent flight to the Enterprise, the navigator goes into excruciating detail about a really rough ride on his last mission.
  • Nerves of Steel: Marko Ramius quizzes Ryan about Ryan's books while a torpedo is homing in on their sub.
  • Not Even Bothering with the Accent: Most of the actors playing the Russian characters, but especially Sean Connery.
  • A Nuclear Error: In order to heighten tensions and give a deadline for the affair, the movie never explains what the book did about the range of SS-N-20s or Soviet safeguards against rogue launch.
  • Oh Crap: Subverted. Tupolev's second officer, when he finds out that their torpedo is now going to hit them instead, he doesn't freak out, but simply points out to his captain how much of an arse he had been.
  • Of Course I Smoke: Jack Ryan makes a point about how he doesn't smoke, repeatedly turning down cigarettes. However, after arriving aboard the Red October, he accepts a cigarette from one of the Russian officers. Ryan's coughing amuses the Russians, and helps to ease the tension between both sides.
  • Old Master: Captain Ramius's nickname? The Vilnius Schoolmaster. He trained many of the Soviet navy's sub skippers, including Tupolev.
  • Ominous Russian Chanting: Hymn to Red October, the movie's theme.[2]
  • Opening Scroll: Contains a Suspiciously Specific Denial.
  • The Other Darrin: Alec Baldwin's only appearance as Jack Ryan. He'd be replaced by Harrison Ford, then Ben Affleck.
  • Precision F-Strike: "You arrogant ass, You've killed us!"
  • Prop Recycling: The teddy bear Jack Ryan gets his daughter at the end is the same teddy bear John McClane was bringing for his kids at the beginning of Die Hard, also directed by John McTiernan.
  • Punch Clock Villain: Putin. "I am only doing my job, it is my responsibility!"
  • Refuge in Audacity: When Tupolev fires torpedoes at the Red October, Ramius orders the crew to make the submarine close with the torpedoes at full speed. He correctly deduces that by getting close to the torpedoes shortly after they've fired, he can catch them while their safeties are still on and ram them with minimal damage. All the while calmly asking Ryan what kind of books he writes.
    • Truth in Television: Soviet submarine doctrine called for submarines under attack to close with the torpedoes and dive, the idea being to generate a miss due to the speeds involved and rapid aspect change. American doctrine, as seen with Dallas, running away from the torp, launching countermeasures and going higher (though not always involving an emergency blow).
  • Retirony: "I would have liked to have seen Montana."
  • Rule of Symbolism: The first word when Russians start speaking English is "Armageddon" (which is the same in both languages), hinting at the reason Ramius did what he did.
  • Running Gag: Jack Ryan impersonating various ship captains.
    • Also whenever he's doing something unpleasant or dangerous;

Ryan:"Jack, next time you get a bright idea write a goddamn memo!"

  • Shown Their Work: The portrayal of submarine life and submarine warfare is pretty realistic.
  • Silent Running Mode: Submarines are of course designed to do this from the very start. Red October is a particular example in that its caterpillar drive makes it unusually quiet even for submarines.
  • Smug Snake: Capt. Tupolev.
  • The Stoic: Engineer Melekin, the only officer who doesn't share in the Heroic BSOD.
  • Suspiciously Specific Denial: In the Opening Scroll, which bothers to remind you that this movie is totally fictitious. Honest.
  • Tension-Cutting Laughter: When Ryan, Captain Mancuso and Seaman "Jonesy" Jones arrive aboard the titular sub, there is dead silence as the Americans and Russians stare at one another. But when Ryan accepts a cigarette from one of the Russian officers, he coughs while smoking (earlier, he'd explain that he doesn't smoke, repeatedly turning down cigarettes), which amuses the Russians and soon eases the tensions between both sides.
  • Translation Convention: Well executed switch from Russian-speaking Russians to English-speaking Russians early in the film; the switch occurred as they used a word that is pronounced identically in English and Russian. Clever.
    • Once the Americans meet them, they switch back to subtitled Russian, as only Ryan can understand it, and Raimus speaks English.
  • We Used to Be Friends: Tupolev and his old teacher, Ramius. Subverted, in that Tupolev believes they were friends and holds Ramius in high regards, while Ramius appears rather disdainful of Tupolev.
  • What the Hell, Hero?: Twice, in the same scene:
    • The assassination of The Political Officer. When the rest of the command crew bring this up to Ramius over dinner, Borodin defends Ramius's action, saying "Did you think he would just go away and sulk while we carried out our plans?" Only one of them objects on the basis of murder being wrong; the rest are worried the crew will find out and mutiny.
    • When Ramius reveals he told Russian fleet command that they're defecting. Even Borodin, who respects Ramius greatly and waits until the others leave to voice his own objection, is shocked.

Kamarov: In the name of god, why?
Ramius: When he reached the new world, Cortez burned his ships. As a result, his men were well-motivated.
Kamarov: You have signed our death warrants.

  • Why Did It Have to Be Snakes?: Jack Ryan broke his back in a helicopter crash when he was a Midshipman at the Naval Academy, and spent over a year in the hospital recovering from his injuries. He is shown early in the movie being entirely unable to sleep on airplanes (before the helo crash is brought up in the film). Later, he has to ride in the back of a small airplane getting bounced around in order to get to the Enterprise. And then, he has to ride in a helicopter in order to link up with the Dallas.

Jack, next time you get a bright idea just put it in a memo!

Notes

  1. The first attempt by the Soviets to destroy Red October
  2. which is not, contrary to popular belief, any official Soviet national song, but created specifically for the movie