Posted on 6/24/09 11:52 AM
Seriously? Smoking? Seriously?
I know I'm a bit of a nitpicker. And by a bit of, I mean majorly. But it really, really bothered me when people on the submarine were smoking all the time. IMDB helpfully points out that the mere act of burning the orders at the beginning of the film should have set off alarms, and it's certainly true. However, I can't imagine that all that time spent submerged would work if the air were slowly but steadily filled with smoke. Oh, I know--as I say this, I flash to Operation Petticoat and Nurse What's-Her-Name leaving her cigarette in Cary Grant's coffee cup. However, that sub wasn't designed to stay submerged as long as a Russian nuclear sub, and even if it were, in the shape it was in, it couldn't. I'm also not sure I saw anyone but her smoking, and certainly I'm not sure I saw anyone else smoking while they were submerged. (Tony Curtis, maybe?) And even there, well, this was supposed to be 1984. A bit more research had been done on smoking in those intervening years, though, to be fair, I don't know how much that changed anything in the Soviet Union.
The Soviets have launched a new Typhoon class submarine, captained by Captain Marko Ramius (Sean Connery). CIA whatever-he-is (analyst?) Jack Ryan (Alec Baldwin) somehow gets pictures of the thing, and there are mysterious doors on the sides of the sub, the purpose of which no one can identify. It turns out that the Soviets have created some insane superior technology that allows them to sound, as the sub travels, like a completely natural phenomenon, or anyway not like a submarine. Ramius feels that this gives too much of an advantage to the Soviet Union, and he fears that it will make war inevitable. And the big, fiery, scary kind that will end the possibility of human existence. So he decides to defect, the first step of which is killing his political officer, Ivan Yrevich Putin (Peter Firth), whose name is assuredly a complete coincidence to current events. Jack Ryan is the only person who sees what Ramius is trying to do, and he must defy both his own country's military and that of the Soviet Union in a last-minute blah blah blah.
To be honest, this really isn't my thing. I don't care about any of these characters. Once again, I found myself thinking more about little things, such as why there appear to be no Soviets on the Soviet sub--not even anyone who seems Russian (or of a republic of the former, then extant, Soviet Union). And don't even get me started again about the smoking. The Soviets were somehow involved in the attack on Ramius, including seeking US help somehow and for reasons I'm not sure I understand. And, of course, there's the eternal delight at Alec Baldwin's hair and how it doesn't move. (To be fair, I focus on that during movies I like, too, such as Ghosts of Mississippi.) We've got James Earl Jones for gravitas, but I'm not sure I believe him as an admiral in 1984. Honestly, yes, it is the colour thing. It's possible there were black admirals in 1984, but it would be the first I knew of it. And I'm not clear on how he has any authority over a CIA whatever-he-is. I'll freely admit that I don't know the structure here, but it confused me, and if it confused me, it must not have gotten everyone else.
Another thing that bothered me was how obviously fake the torpedoes were. Really? This was the best they could do? I suspect they were self-consciously using computer animation, because it was expensive and new and they could. But it looked silly. I couldn't believe it. And I don't mean "I couldn't believe they'd use such crap effects"--that wouldn't be the first time and it won't be the last. I mean "I couldn't believe they were in danger from those torpedoes." They made me want to giggle. Bad enough the obvious "moonlight is blue!" lighting toward the end of the movie, which, yes, also looked awfully fake. That wasn't terribly important to the story, and Gods know it was better than those silly filters you get in '50s movies. But you must feel that the Red October is under some kind of real threat, and I just didn't.
All right. I'm so far from the target audience that it just isn't funny. (Though I'm pretty sure my mother went to see this one Fourth of July while the three of us saw Batman Returns instead.) I am, when all's said and done, a girl. And as the Los Angeles Times told us, girls don't really get into action movies. (Or comic book movies unless there's someone dreamy in them.) And I don't really like action movies, which I will admit freely and which a brief survey of my film choices--alas, not using my old and more useful category system--will show. However, one of the real problems I have with this movie is that good actors were wasted in it. Of the five actors I can name just from looking at them, only two really had parts that you could sink your teeth into. Tim Curry was such a nonentity that I barely remember that the character he played was a doctor. Sam Neill, I felt, didn't get enough time to develop his character. James Earl Jones was there for the gravitas, of course. And oh, for the love of Gods, why did people keep casting Sean Connery in roles where a Scottish accent makes no sense?