John McTiernan | The Hunt for Red October
| The 13th Warrior
Classic Film and Television Home Page
John McTiernan is a Hollywood film director.
Some common subjects in the films of John McTiernan:
- Contacts between a man inside and outside a situation (Die Hard, The Hunt for Red October)
- Interracial and international brotherhood (Die Hard, The Hunt for Red October, The 13th Warrior)
- Complex environment, with many paths (building: Die Hard, rope walks in trees: Medicine Man,
caves: The 13th Warrior)
- Silent suspense sequences (Willis' injury: Die Hard, submarine ping: The Hunt for Red October,
cave: The 13th Warrior)
- Heroes who write (The Hunt for Red October, The 13th Warrior)
- Contrasting uniform for hero (US Navy vs Soviet Navy: The Hunt for Red October,
chain mail vs armor: The 13th Warrior)
- Finales in which hero moves away on vehicle (The Hunt for Red October, The 13th Warrior)
The Hunt for Red October
Lithuanian Submarine captain Sean Connery defects with the Soviet's
latest high tech sub. (This is much better casting than us Lithuanians
usually get. The last major Lithuanian character in a film or
TV show was Squiggy on "Laverne and Shirley".)
As usual, McTiernan emphasizes humor, character and drama
over violence. The plot is constructed on similar lines as Die Hard.
In that film, the plot turned on the radio contact between
Bruce Willis' character within the skyscraper, and Reginald Valjohnson
without. Their relationship formed the human basis for the film.
In The Hunt for Red October, the film's key scene is the one where CIA
analyst Alec Baldwin suddenly intuits what Connery is up to. Baldwin
becomes the only one on the American side who understands and
connects with Connery, and the plot turns on his ever more heroic
attempts to get others to share in his leap of faith. The scene
where Baldwin sees into another human being's soul is profoundly
moving, and so is the film's picture of the triumph of this human
insight over all worldly interests and political considerations.
The 13th Warrior
The 13th Warrior (1998) shows the same warm feelings of
brotherhood as McTiernan's earlier films. As in The Hunt For
Red October, the brotherhood extends across racial
and national lines. It requires a leap by the hero, to get him
to understand and join up with men from another nation and group.
This involves deep feeling. The feeling is partly one of universal
brotherhood, and partly of male bonding with a very specific group
In both films, the hero wears uniforms that are both similar
to and different from those of the other nation. In October,
the hero is in a dress blue US Naval uniform, whereas the men
on the other sub are in Soviet naval uniforms. Their clothes are
similarly dress blue. In Warrior, the hero is in iron chain
mail, whereas the Norsemen are in shiny armor. Their armor is
made of broad pieces of metal, not chain mail like the hero's.
Both costumes are equally spectacular. All the men in both films
are dressed up to the max.
Many of McTiernan's films involve the protagonists moving through
a complex environment, one with many paths:
McTiernan likes suspense sequences when the heroes have to stay
- In Die Hard (1988), this is a high rise office building,
including many show rooms, areas under construction and ventilation shafts.
- In The Hunt for Red October, it is a series of submarines.
- In Medicine Man (1992), it is the upper levels of a rain forest,
and many rope and net paths built high among the trees. These spectacular
tree walkways were the best part of this film.
- In The 13th Warrior, we move through an equally complex series of
underground caves. Caves have fascinated me ever since I was a kid.
These scenes in The 13th Warrior are delightfully exciting.
Both The 13th Warrior and The Hunt for Red October have a hero who writes.
It is an important part of his characterization. Both write using
pens on paper in front of them - personal notes. Both men are
- Willis' injury in Die Hard,
- The submarine ping sequence in The Hunt for Red October,
- Scenes in the cave in The 13th Warrior.
Both films also have similar, well-done finales. These
show the hero quiet, alone, on a vehicle taking him away from
the scene of action in the story. Both finales sum up the changes
in the hero's character caused by the events of the story.