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20 technical mistakes (and 3 fun facts) in 'The Hunt for Red October'

The Tom Clancy brand was launched both in print and on the big screen with "The Hunt for Red October," a Cold War nail-biter that more or less created the technothriller genre. The movie, released by Paramount in 1990, features a young Alec Baldwin as protagonist Jack Ryan who amazingly makes intel officers look cool. The movie remains an exciting romp 25 years on . . . but it also falls victim to the Hollywood trap of associated technical mistakes. (And we'll skip the fact the Soviet captain has a Scottish accent while the rest of his crew have British accents to represent the fact they're speaking Russian.) Here are 20 of them (with exact time stamp where applicable):


1. (2:55) Red October is being escorted out of the Russian harbor by a United States Coast Guard Cutter and U.S. Navy sea tugs.

(Paramount Pictures)

2. (2:50) As Red October heads out of the channel the flat sides of the fake sub are visible at the waterline.

3. (5:24) Jack takes off from Heathrow in the dark for a six hour flight to DC (five time zones behind), but it's light when he arrives and is driven to Langley.

(Paramount Pictures)

4. (19:41) Patuxent, Maryland is home to the Naval Air Systems Command, not a Naval Shipyard.

Fun Fact: (20:01) Jeffrey Jones, who plays the engineer at the shipyard, also played Principal Rooney in "Ferris Bueller's Day Off."

(Paramount Pictures)

Fun Fact: (23:03) Tim Curry, who plays Petrov, Red October's doctor, also played Frank N. Furter in "The Rocky Horror Picture Show."

(20th Century Film Corp.)

5. (35:11) When the Red October's Political Officer reads the orders, he reveals they're supposed to test the silent drive and return home "on or about the 16th of this month." Shortly afterwards, Jack Ryan is briefing Jeffrey Pelt and asks "isn't it the 23rd?" which means the 16th of the month has already past.

6. (35:15) Jack Ryan's brief to Jeffrey Pelt and the Joint Chiefs ignores the fact that ICBMs could be fired from pretty much anywhere around the globe.  Why would a "madman" drive within 500 miles of the coast to do what could be done from the Iceland-UK Gap or wherever?

(Paramount Pictures)

7. (51:10) COD turns into an E-2 Hawkeye as it lands aboard the USS Enterprise off of Nova Scotia.

8. Jonesy identifies the sonar contact as a Typhoon-class ballistic missile submarine, and they label it the Typhoon-7 as they have six other Typhoon submarines recorded in the computer. However, in November 1984, which is when this is supposed to happen, only two had been commissioned and the third was near completion. As a result the Dallas couldn't have had six Typhoons in its computer at the time, only two.

(Paramount Pictures)

9. (1:14:26) Tomcat turns into a Korean War-era Panther during ramp strike. (See more detail about this egregious error here.)

Fun Fact: Fred Thompson, who plays the admiral aboard the Enterprise, was also a U.S. Senator from Tennessee between 1994-2003.

(Paramount Pictures)

10. (1:23:20) Helicopter pilot randomly switches from right seat to left and then back again while ferrying Ryan to the USS Dallas.

11. (1:23:55) Helo crewman spots the Dallas at "three o'clock" and the pilot turns left in response, which would take the aircraft away from the sub not put it closer to it.

(Paramount Pictures)

12. (1:26:00) Helicopter doesn't have windshield wipers going in a torrential rain storm.

(Paramount Pictures)

13. (1:28:52) Once aboard the Dallas Ryan shows no signs of hypothermia (shivering, for instance) after releasing himself from the helo hoist and spending several minutes in near-freezing water.

14. Same footage used twice to show a torpedo hitting the water –one from a Russian Bear bomber and one from an American asset.

15. (1:44:52) Reuben James (FFG-57) was not commissioned until March 22, 1986 therefore couldn't have been around during 1984, the period in which "The Hunt for Red October" is set.

(Photo: U.S. Navy)

16. (1:45:52) Movie crew (holding camera and wearing blue jeans and tennis shoes) visible on deck as crew abandons Red October because of bogus nuclear reactor leak.

(Paramount Pictures)

17. (1:53:30) When the members of the Dallas crew arrive aboard the Red October, Ramius asks Ryan if he speaks Russian (in Russian) but basic lip reading reveals he is actually saying "Do you speak Russian" in English.

(Paramount Pictures)

18. (2:01:27) As camera angles shift during this scene Ramius randomly switches which hand he's using to cover his gunshot wound and hold his weapon.

(Paramount Pictures)

19. (2:06:42) A submarine would only "rig for red" if it was going to periscope depth, which the Dallas never does throughout "The Hunt for Red October."

(Paramount Pictures)

20. (2:07:32) Surface view of the supposed underwater explosion shows the pyrotechnic flash that triggered it (at time 2:05 in the YouTube clip below).

(h/t: Movie Mistakes)

Now: 62 glaring technical errors in 'The Hurt Locker' >

And: 79 Cringeworthy Technical Errors In The Movie 'Top Gun' >

 

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