The Hunt For Red October – The True Story Review: This Sinks

November 26, 2009 by  
Filed under - Home, Reviews

tv-stars-2halfTHE HUNT FOR RED OCTOBER – THE TRUE STORY: Thursday 26th November, Five, 8pm Alert Me

A historical documentary can go one of two ways.

It can enlighten us with an updated twist on the familiar or it can leave us terribly bored.

Unfortunately, the first installment of Five’s “True Story?—“The Hunt for Red October?—which strains to show us the non-fiction behind the Oscar-winning film, falls flat. Interjected with history lessons and self-made cheesy recreations, we endure a lifeless lecture for one whole hour, and without even the slightest glimpse of Sean Connery.

That is just wrong.

For those who do not recall, Tom Clancy’s novel, The Hunt for Red October, which inspired the 1989 movie, depicted the hijacking of a Russian nuclear submarine by a Soviet captain (played by Connery) determined to defect to the West. However, the “true story,? as the documentary points out, is quite different.

Political Officer Valery Sablin (not Captain Marko Ramius) the second-in-command of the Sentry (not Red October), was not defying his nation. The 37-year-old had grown unhappy with corruption in the old Brezhnev-era Soviet state. And so the documentary hopes that, as historian Gregory Young, remarks, “The true story of a political officer not leaving his motherland but determined to change his motherland… is a better story.? But we all know that Hollywood sensationalism always wins in the end.

The problem is the reconstructions. Instead of using recognizable clips from the film, “True Story” recreates its own footage. That means, makeshift clips of the crew’s conversations in Russian and Sablin played by an overacting, underpaid actor, all filmed with a blurry lens. That is never appealing.

But perhaps the most redeeming aspect of this premier programme is the insight provided by surviving participants and specialist historians. We hear from both sides—Crew member Viktor Borodai, who carried out Sablin’s orders and Air Force Major General Alexander Tsymbalov, whose mission was to thwart Sablin’s mission. And then there is University of Northern Colorado Assistant Professor Gregory Young, whose research into the event set the framework for Clancy’s fictional account, and University of Salford Professor Eric Grove, who analyzes the Swiss’s radar operators for us and gives us a different perspective into the familiar story.

So, while the programme goes on a bit too long and relies a little too much on uninspiring visuals, “True Story: The Hunt for Red October,? is good enough for a historical documentary.


Danielle Jacoby