Film and Plot Synopsis
In the first film in the Jack Ryan film series that is based on the novel by Tom Clancy, Soviet submarine commander Marko Ramius turns renegade after he is given command of the Soviet’s new first strike nuclear submarine, the Red October. The Red October is equipped with a nearly silent propulsion drive that makes the submarine almost undetectable and capable of launching its nuclear payload within miles of the United States. Ramius steers towards the United States, pursued by both the Soviets and United States navies. However, is Ramius’ mission one of destruction and war, or does he possibly wish to defect?
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‘The Hunt For Red October’ Movie Summary
Nearby, the USS Dallas, an American attack submarine, detects and begins tracking the Red October as it leaves port. However, the Dallas and its sonar officer, Petty Officer Ronald Jones (Courtney B. Vance), lose contact with the Red October once it engages its caterpillar drive, proving the success of the design to Ramius and his crew. A short time later, Ramius meets with his command staff where they discuss their intentions to defect to the United States. Ramius informs his officers that he dispatched a letter to naval command before leaving port which announced his intention to defect. The officers are angered with Ramius’ unilateral decision, but Ramius informs his first officer, Vasily Borodin (Sam Neill), that he believes that his decision will motivate the officers to accomplish their goals.
The next morning in Washington D.C., CIA analyst Jack Ryan (Alex Baldwin) finishes his analysis of secret intelligence photos of the Red October while it was still in dry dock. After consulting with a former submarine commander (Jeffrey Jones), Jack reaches the conclusion that the Red October was built with a silent propulsion drive. While conducting his research, Jack receives a summons from his supervisor, Vice Admiral James Greer (James Earl Jones), to brief Greer on his assessments and the threat the Red October may pose to United States’ national security.
Unbeknownst to him, Jack is pulled into a briefing with Greer, the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and National Security Advisor Jeffrey Pelt (Richard Jordan). During the briefing, it is revealed that intelligence has learned that the Soviet fleet was dispatched to destroy the Red October shortly after its launch. Everyone in the room, except Jack, wrongfully concludes that Ramius plans to launch a renegade nuclear strike against the United States. However, Jack’s knowledge of Ramius causes him to believe that Ramius intends to defect to the United States. Everyone dismisses Jack’s theory, except for Pelt who dispatches Jack on a solo mission to prove his theory correct within three days, the time it would take the Red October to reach missile range of the United States. Jack is sent to an aircraft carrier in the mid-Atlantic to work with military forces to determine Ramius’ true intent.
Listen, I’m a politician, which means I’m a cheat and a liar, and when I’m not kissing babies, I’m stealing their lollipops. But it also means I keep my options open. Jeffrey Pelt (Richard Jordan)
Not long after, Captain Tupolev surfaces his submarine and receives the orders from Soviet command to destroy Red October. Tupolev guesses his former friend’s route and sets a course to intercept the Red October. A short time later, the Red October’s caterpillar drive malfunctions during risky maneuvers through an undersea canyon. Lieutenant Melekhin (Ronald Guttman), the Chief Engineer for Red October, determines that caterpillar drive was purposely sabotaged, indicating that Ramius has a saboteur on his ship.
At the same time on the Dallas, Jones studies the sonar recordings of the Red October just as the Dallas lost contact with the sub. Jones locates a nearly undetectable sound of the caterpillar drive and informs the Dallas’ commanding officer, Commander Bart Mancuso (Scott Glenn), of his findings and his ability to locate the Red October if the Dallas can find it again. Mancuso orders the Dallas to end of the undersea canyon to see if they can locate the Red October for a second time. The Dallas is successful in locating the Red October and secretly follows it until the Dallas is ordered to surface to retrieve Jack from a helicopter. Once onboard, Jack attempts to convince Mancuso that Ramius is attempting to defect. However, Mancuso receives new emergency orders from command to sink the Red October after the Soviets dispatch their ambassador (Joss Ackland) to falsely inform Pelt that Ramius plans to launch his missiles on the United States.
Jack tries to convince Mancuso of his point of view as the submarine commander prepares his crew and ship to sink the Red October. Jack succeeds in convincing Mancuso by correctly guessing Ramius’ tactics. As a result, Mancuso and Ramius communicate via morse code observed through periscopes. Both submarines travel to a deep portion of the Atlantic Ocean, where Ramius fakes a radiation leak to get his crew off the Red October. Ramius and his officers submerge in the Red October under the pretense that they are going to sink the ship to prevent it from falling into United States hands. The Red October’s crew is rescued by a U.S. war frigate.
At the same time, Mancuso, Jack, and Jones board the Red October via an emergency rescue submarine. Ramius requests asylum for himself and his officers just as the Red October is attacked by Tupolev’s submarine. The Red October successfully evades the Konovalov’s torpedoes with the assistance of the Dallas. However, Tupolev has the advantage as his ship is faster and more maneuverable. At the same time onboard Red October, Borodin is shot and killed by a secret Soviet agent installed on the sub as a cook (Tomas Arana). The agent seeks to detonate a missile on the Red October to incinerate the submarine. Ramius and Jack team up to stop the agent while Mancuso takes command of the Red October and its remaining crew. Ramius is shot by the agent, but Jack kills the spy before he can detonate a missile. At the same time, Mancuso leads one of Konovalov’s torpedoes back at Tupolev’s submarine, destroying the sub and its loyal Soviet crew. The Red October’s crew on the surface sees the submarine’s explosion and mistakenly believes that the Red October was destroyed.
In the aftermath, the Soviet ambassador meets again with Pelt and expresses his regret that they cannot recover the Red October’s wreckage due to the depth of the water that it was sank in. The Soviet ambassador also expresses concern to Pelt over the disappearance of the Konovalov which Pelt coyly dismisses as the Soviet’s ineptitude to manage their own fleet. Not long after, Jack and Ramius guide the Red October up the Penobscot River in Maine. Ramius confesses to Jack that he decided to defect when he received the plans for Red October and knew that he could never support to use of a first strike weapon like the Red October. The two men bond over their love of fishing, and Jack welcomes the Soviet captain to the new world.