This Cold War thriller marks the first screen appearance of Jack Ryan, the US agent subsequently played by Harrison Ford in Patriot Games (1992) and Clear and Present Danger, Ben Affleck in The Sum of All Fears, and Chris Pine in Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit.
Here, Ryan (Alec Baldwin) plays a distinct second fiddle to the enigmatic Soviet commander Marko Ramius (a charismatic Sean Connery) who sparks an international crisis when he starts heading his new submarine – the Red October – straight for the USA during the trial voyage.
The sub is heavily armed and equipped with an experimental new propulsion system that makes it virtually impossible to track.
As the superpowers engage in the usual round of accusations and denials, it’s left to Ryan to figure out whether the Russian is defecting or preparing to launch an undetectable, pre-emptive nuclear strike.
The talented supporting cast (Sam Neill, Tim Curry, Joss Ackland, James Earl Jones, Scott Glenn) gives a pleasing sheen to the material while John McTiernan’s no-frills direction ensures that the tension rarely slips below pressure-cooker level.
Capt. Marko Ramius
Captain Bart Mancuso
Captain Vasily Borodin
Admiral James Greer
James Earl Jones
Courtney B. Vance
Fred Dalton Thompson
Lieutenant Commander Thompson