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The following FAQ entries may contain spoilers. Only the biggest ones (if any) will be covered with spoiler tags. Spoiler tags have been used sparingly in order to make the page more readable.
For detailed information about the amounts and types of (a) sex and nudity, (b) violence and gore, (c) profanity, (d) alcohol, drugs, and smoking, and (e) frightening and intense scenes in this movie, consult the IMDb Parents Guide for this movie. The Parents Guide for The Hunt for Red October can be found here.
Yes. The Hunt for Red October is a 1984 novel by American author Tom Clancy. It was inspired by two real events: (1) the deviation of a Soviet Navy submarine to Gotland in 1961 by Captain Jonas Pleskys (a Lithuanian), and (2) a 1975 mutiny aboard the Soviet frigate Storozhevoy, which was an attempt to defect to Gotland by Captain Valery Sablin. Clancy's novel was adapted for the movie by screenwriters Larry Ferguson and Donald Stewart.
Two reasons. Captain Marko Ramius (Sean Connery) wanted to defect because of the circumstances surrounding his wife's death one year ago. What happened to his wife is not shown in the movie but talked about in depth in the book. She was killed because the corruption of the Soviet system allowed a drunk doctor (the son of a Politburo member) to operate on her with poor quality drugs and, as a result, she died from a simple operation. This showed Ramius the corruption of the Soviet system. The other reason is that Marko hates the cold war, its cost on the lives of him and his men, and above all else he wants to avoid a real war. Marko knows that the Red October was created as a "first strike" weapon to get a first nuclear strike on America in event of a war, and therefore give them a significant advantage in the war and increase the odds of it happening. When Marko and his friend are talking about what they want for the future, Marko talks about the peace he enjoyed when fishing as a young man. Marko states earlier that he came up with his plan (to defect) when he saw the plans for the Red October. He steals the Red October to prevent the Russian government from being able to use it to start a war.
The American bigwigs knew that Ramius sent a letter to his wife's uncle, Admiral Yuri Illyich Padorin, after which the majority of the Soviet naval force was ordered to hunt down the Red October and destroy it. Their first assumption was that Ramius was a rogue, intending to attack the U.S. under his own volition. Then Jack Ryan (Alec Baldwin) remembered that it was the first anniversary of Ramius' wife's death. It dawned on Ryan that another explanation for Ramius taking a course for the American coast and for the Soviet fleet to issue orders to destroy the sub was because the letter Ramius sent to Padorin contained his intention to defect.
That guy Ivan Putin (played by Peter Firth) was Ramius' political officer and the only one that Ramius had not personally handpicked for his defecting inner circle. Since the political officer knew what the original orders were and would have recognized as fake the orders that Ramius subsequently substituted, Ramius had to dispense with him.
Yuri Gagarin [1934-1968] was a Soviet cosmonaut and the first human in space. Ramius refers to him when he mentions "the days of Sputnik and Yuri Gagarin" in his address to the crew. On 12 April, 1961, Gagarin was launched into space aboard the Vostok 1. After about 1 hour 48 minutes, he returned to earth, landing safely in Siberia. Twenty-three (23) days later, on 5 May, 1961, Alan Shepard [1923-1998] would become the first American in space. Gagarin died at the controls of a malfunctioning MIG fighter in 1968. Russian newspapers reported that Gagarin remained at the controls to avoid hitting a school, rather than ejecting from the craft to save his own life, further elevating Gagarin's status as a hero.
The book explains this a bit better than the movie. Loginov (Tomas Arana), the saboteur/cook, was GRU (Glavnoje Razvedyvatel'noje Upravlenije), which is Russian Military Intelligence. He was secretly assigned to the Red October on her maiden voyage and remained under cover as a cook's assistant. This is hinted at early in the film. When Ramius is speaking with his Political Officer, he says "How many agents did the KGB put aboard my boat?" to which the officer responds "...If the KGB or the GRU has agents aboard, I would be the last to know.".
The novel reveals that before leaving Murmansk, Loginov was briefed by his military intelligence superiors on the details of the Red October's official orders (that it was to rendezvous with the Konovolov). Thus, when Ramius announced over the ship's P.A. system that their orders were to sail to New York to conduct missile drills, there was a shot of Loginov in the galley with a perplexed look on his face. This was a subtle foreshadow that Loginov knows that the real orders were not being followed. That announcement, coupled with the "accidental" death of the political officer and then witnessing Ramius removing and keeping the second missile key, compelled Loginov to sabotage the caterpillar drive.
He only did one -- the initial sabotage of the caterpillar drive. All the other ones with the reactor plant and caterpillars were done by the Chief Engineer under Captain Ramius' orders. These were done in a controlled way to cause fear and panic among the non-defecting crew. It was part of their cover story. The only other sabotage the Loginov tried was at the end when he tried to set off a "Range Safety Package" (RSP) on one of the missiles. An RSP is normally onboard a test missile so if something goes wrong and the missile heads off course, they can self destruct the missile. On operational missiles, the RSP is normally removed to prevent the intentional destruction by the enemy in-flight to targets. It is explained in the book that an RSP was left installed on one missile for the purpose of being a self destruct device for the whole sub in case of just such an emergency requiring destruction of the sub. Loginov, being a GRU agent, was taught how to do this. Fortunately, Jack Ryan shoots him before he is able to touch the wires together and blow up the Red October.
Ryan was sending a message from the Dallas by way of Morse code with flashing lights on the periscope. Ramius saw the message from the Red October. Ryan requested that Ramius acknowledge the message with a single ping, so Ramius ordered the sonar ping in order to verify the range to the other submarine (which was just an excuse he gave). The crew on the Red October did not know that Ramius was responding to a message sent from the Dallas.
The exchange of cigarettes between military men in the field is often seen in films as a sign of good will.
In the book the US president personally plays a leading role in the events and several other US submarines and a Royal Navy aircraft carrier are also involved in the search. There is a subplot involving an American spy in the Kremlin who provides NATO with the details of the Soviet fleet's mission to sink the Red October and another with a KGB spy who is turned by the FBI and used to relay false information back to the Soviets. We see the Soviet Politburo discuss the information but there is no scene where the Red October has to evade an air-dropped torpedo and the GRU agent on board never sabotages the caterpiller drive. Ryan never boards the USS Dallas which never receives any orders to sink the Red October whilst another Soviet submarine is destroyed by a reactor accident during the hunt. Following the fake radiation leak the Soviet crew are conveyed from the Red October by an American Deep Sea Rescue Vehicle mini-submarine (DSRV) rather than abandoning ship and presume that Ramius and the officers scuttled the vessel in order to prevent it falling into American hands. The evacuated crew never witness any of its combat with the Soviet Alfa class submarine which is sunk by the Red October ramming it rather than the USS Dallas luring its own torpedo onto it. An obsolete US Navy submarine is then blown up in the spot where the Red October was supposed to have exploded in order to provide wreckage that will convince the Soviets that their boat is definitely destroyed.
So far, Clancy has written 12 novels that feature Jack Ryan. They are: The Hunt for Red October (1984), Patriot Games (1987), The Cardinal of the Kremlin (1988), Clear and Present Danger (1989), The Sum of All Fears (1991), Without Remorse (1993), Debt of Honor (1994), Executive Orders (1996), Rainbow Six (1998) (mention only), The Bear and the Dragon (2000), Red Rabbit (2002), and The Teeth of the Tiger (2003). Of the 12 books in the Ryan-universe, five have so far been made into movies -- The Hunt for Red October, Patriot Games (1992), Clear and Present Danger (1994), The Sum of All Fears (2002), and Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit (2014). Without Remorse is currently in development without an expected release date.
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