It’s hard to imagine a movie megahit less suited for the TV screen than The Hunt for Red October. Everything about it is massive: a huge cast strewn all over the map, a plot that’s global in scale, and pacing as methodical as a submarine making a turn. On the big screen, Red October took over your senses — the tiniest sonar ping became a matter of life-and-death import.

Shrunk to fit your TV, though, the movie loses its majesty. In the theater, the underwater sub maneuvers seemed awesome and balletic — like watching whales mate — but on the set they’re a blur of blue murk. The subs’ interiors are no better: The overwhelming red lighting creates the effect of viewing through a bowl of cherry Jell-O.

But if Red October‘s epic sense is missing, there are consolations in the story. One of the chief pleasures here is the way male professionalism is presented at its seat-of-the-pants, strategy-minded best. The sharply drawn characters — Sean Connery’s godlike Captain Ramius, Alec Baldwin’s plucky CIA whiz kid, Scott Glenn’s cautious U.S. commander — are shown in all their cat- and-mouse machinations. It’s fascinating precisely because most movies never let you see people think. Though the video version suffers a loss of visual impact, Red October is the rare adventure flick that respects the viewer’s intelligence. B+

The Hunt for Red October
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