A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that The Hunt for Red October is a tense submarine drama based on a Tom Clancy novel. There are a couple of gunfights; blood is seen two or three times, although it's not gory; and one character murders by breaking another's neck. Profanity is infrequent but varied, with "hell" half a dozen times and stronger words such as "s--t" and "ass" once each. A minor character mentions whales humping. A line references the Playmate of the Month. It's a good starting point for talking about the Cold War since the story arises entirely from tense Soviet/American relations, with each regarding the other as the enemy.
What's the story?
A previously unknown Russian nuclear sub called the Red October is detected on-course for the East Coast of the United States. While the U.S. submarine fleet tries to locate the sub, CIA analyst Jack Ryan (Alec Baldwin) is convinced that its commander, Marko Ramius (Sean Connery), is trying to defect to the West. But if Ryan is wrong and the U.S. fleet can't find and stop the sub, the Soviet Union would have first-strike capability just off America's shores. Ryan suddenly finds himself in the middle of a deadly game of chess between two superpowers on the brink of nuclear war.
Is it any good?
THE HUNT FOR RED OCTOBER keeps tension and suspense front and center. The plot builds nicely, keeping you guessing as it moves quickly along. The tight writing and strong acting make much of essentially watching a chess game in which players try to guess the others' next moves. Every ounce of Sean Connery's charisma is on display, and a young Alec Baldwin is fun to watch as a nerdy government analyst who's a bit out of his depth. Both are strongly supported by the likes of Sam Neill, Stellan Skarsgård, James Earl Jones, Tim Curry, and more.
Although the content is fine for most tweens, it's more likely to be enjoyed by teens who can appreciate tension as a dramatic device. Navy and submarine buffs also will enjoy the depictions of strategizing, navigating, and sonar operations in the cramped confines of both Russian and American subs. It's fun to see what cutting-edge technology was like 30 years ago, and it's also a bit of a history lesson about the tensions of the Cold War, reminding us of how much U.S./Soviet tension was a huge backdrop to life then.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the Cold War. What was it about? How did it begin and end?
Have you seen any other movies, played any games, or read any books with Jack Ryan as a character? How does this one compare? Which is your favorite?
Movies set in submarines usually have a lot of tension. Why is that? What do you think life on a submarine is really like?
- In theaters: March 2, 1990
- On DVD or streaming: December 1, 1998
- Cast: Sean Connery, Alec Baldwin, James Earl Jones
- Director: John McTiernan
- Studios: Paramount Pictures, Mace Neufeld Productions, Nina Saxon Film Design
- Genre: Drama
- Topics: History
- Run time: 134 minutes
- MPAA rating: PG
- Awards/Honors: Academy Award
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