Between 1989, when The Hunt for Red October was produced, and 1990, when the film was released, the Cold War between Russia and America had ended. Historic events are rarely a barrier to a Hollywood studio releasing a film (although the attacks of 9/11 certainly made film-makers pause for thought).
So, courtesy of a new introduction to the film, the year within the storyline of Red October was shifted back to 1984, when Tom Clancy’s source novel was published, and the audience was expected to reacquaint themselves with their stereotypical prejudices as America and Russia flirted with brinkmanship once again.
In the novel, there is combat between the Red October submarine and another, fervently patriotic, Russian sub, whilst two American sub escorts decline to get involved because of political reasons. The Red October eventually wins. In the film, the Russian sub that is tracking the Red October simply opens fire on the defenceless sub, and the single American escort heroically intervenes against orders, quite implausibly leading towards the Russian’s defeat by their own weaponry. Furthermore, in the novel, the sub that is destroyed instead of the Red October is American, decommissioned, and part of a strategic military operation, whereas in the film, the only sub that is destroyed is that of the pursuing Russian.
The differences between the film and the novel from which it is adapted may appear slight…
The full 850 word version of this review is published in Directory of World Cinema: American Hollywood 2, edited by Lincoln Geraghty, published by Intellect Books, 2015.