Here Comes The Cavalry

MGK wants to know:

What’s the best “rescue” moment in an action movie? The moment when the hero is absolutely fucked, completely about to get killed/ass-kicked/etc. by the villains in violent manner, and then suddenly his friend/ally shows up, fighting ensues, and the hero is (for the moment) saved?

Yeah, I know, that was a little over two weeks ago, but for us here at Kaedrin (and by “us”, I mean “me”), this is about as good as it gets. Now MGK’s answer is from <a href="The Crow“>The Crow, and that’s certainly a good pick. It fits his definition well, it’s a decent movie, but it’s also not an obvious choice. Some of his commenters do a good job pointing out some of the more obvious examples, like Star Wars, The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers and Return of the King, Jurassic Park, and a television example of Battlestar Galactica, among a lot of other choices. However, the first one the came to mind for me was not suggested by anyone. And when I looked around a bit and found the inevitable TV Tropes entry, I didn’t even find it there.

So my pick is from The Hunt for Red October. Spoilers to follow!

At the end of the movie there’s a standoff between three submarines – the Red October (a Soviet sub featuring a nearly silent propulsion system and a Captain who wants to defect), the USS Dallas (a US sub featuring a crazy CIA agent and the world’s greatest Sonar man), and the Konovalov (another Soviet sub that has been ordered to sink the Red October). In the film, the Red October makes contact with the Dallas, and they’re attempting to proceed with the defection when the Konovalov shows up and attempts to literally torpedo the effort.

Due to some fancy maneuvering, the Red October is able to avoid the first torpedo by exploiting the torpedo’s safety features. Recognizing this, the captain of the Konovalov removes the safety features from the next torpedo and fires. The Red October is too big and too slow to evade the torpedo! Whatever shall they do? USS Dallas to the rescue! The Dallas passes between the Red October and the torpedo (causing one American officer to memorably exclaim, “Way to go Dallas!”). Sensing a new target, the torpedo acquires the Dallas, which continues its turn, changing the course of the torpedo. The Dallas releases some counter-measures which momentarily blind the torpedo and immediately surfaces, causing the torpedo to search for a new target. Because of the Dallas’ fancy maneuvering, the closest target ends up being the Konovalov. Recognizing the situation, a Soviet officer scolds the Konovalov’s captain, “You arrogant ass. You’ve killed us!”

It’s a fantastic sequence, for several reasons:

  • It had already been established that the Dallas couldn’t fire on the Konovalov without authorization (and they didn’t have it – after all, the Soviets didn’t fire on the Americans). So when they figure out a way to save the Red October anyway, it’s a genuine surprise.
  • This is made all the more impressive when considering that the Dallas’ captain is aboard the Red October (i.e. it was the second officer who came up with the plan).
  • Furthermore, the destruction of the Konovalov plays right into the cover story needed to complete the defection. Only the Red October’s officers wanted to defect. They had to figure out a way to get their crew off the ship (they came up with a fake nuclear accident to accomplish that) AND they needed to convince the crew that the US wouldn’t steal the Red October (before the crew leaves, the captain informs them that he’s going to scuttle the ship). The Konovalov shows up after the crew has left the Red October, so they don’t know what’s happened. All they know is that they saw a US ship surface, immediately follwed by an underwater explosion (which is more dramatic and convincing than a scuttling). I guess you could call this sequence of events contrived, but I thought it fit together really well – much better than most thrillers.

Damn, that was a long winded explanation. Just watch the movie. The way the Dallas saves the Red October is a great Cavalry moment. I’m sure there are lots of others I’m leaving out. Knowing some of my readers, I’m sure there are at least a few Anime examples (Vandread comes to mind, though I don’t remember enough specifics to say for sure).

Update: Heh, I forgot that Beverly Crusher is Jack Ryan’s wife, even though she’s only in the movie for about 1 minute.

Another Update: It seems that for all my bloviating about the plot, I had neglected a few of the specifics of that final battle… but the general concept was still correct. Incidentally, what the heck happened to John McTiernan? In a period of 3 years or so, he made 3 great action/adventure movies: Predator, Die Hard and the aforementioned The Hunt for Red October. Then about 5-10 mostly bad movies and silence since 2003 (though IMDB reports a few movies currently in production).