Review: The Hunt for Red October


My tastes in books and movies generally run to romantic comedies, mysteries, science fiction, fantasy, adventures – not military/political stories.

However, The Hunt for Red October, winner of our Book to Movie poll, is a notable exception, right up there with Sahara.

In the interest of full disclosure, I have to admit I didn’t get all the way through the book in time for this review.  However, the first 98 pages of the 387-page book (the length of my hardback copy) are interesting enough that I’ll probably get back to it when I have more time.

The first hour of the movie encompassed the part of the book I did read, and I can say for certain that except for a few minor details, the movie script stayed true to the manuscript. An example of a difference: in the book, Marko Ramius was raised by his grandmother and taught sea craft by an old man in his grandmother’s village. Yet in the movie, Ramius (played with his usual panache by Sean Connery) talked of being raised and taught to fish by his grandfather.

The book is more emphatic about Ramius’s motives for his actions; the movie implies that the death of his wife may have been the reason for his decision, but the book indicates that her passing was the final straw, not the only cause. The book also gives different impressions of the relationships Ramius has with his officers and the sub’s political officer.

Other liberties that are taken in the movie deal with when and where incidents occur, who participates in certain conversations and how they proceed, the type of toy Jack Ryan bought for his daughter’s Christmas present, and the date the Red October put out to sea. None of these detract from the movie or make a huge difference in the book.  The story is tightly told in both versions; even the technical passages in the book are written in a way that a nonmilitary person can understand.

Overall, the movie stays truer to the book than most screen adaptations I’ve seen of other novels. It’s exciting and worth reading (or viewing), even if you’re not a military/political story fan.  If you do watch the movie, look out for the scene where Jack Ryan mimics Marko Ramius – Alec Baldwin does a very good imitation of Sean Connery, adding a touch of humor to a very tense and pivotal scene.

Great story telling, an all-star cast – whether you read the book, watch the movie or both, you’ll find The Hunt for Red October thrilling and entertaining.

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