A month ago, a little further back perhaps, I saw a post on Reddit pointing to a new web site that vowed it would predict the movie you were thinking of in 30 questions or so. Filmillion piqued my curiosity, so I gave it a whirl (more than once) and was left frustrated and disappointed. That’s not because of how well the site performed but by how flawed its questions (and movie guesses tend to be.
If there have been any database improvement or other site modifications to combat flaws isn’t something known by me. What is known is that I gave the site another run for the sake of writing this article. If it leads you to wanting to try it yourself remains to be seen, but here’s what I dealt with and the outcome.
I’m a fan of the film The Hunt for Red October, which was the first Tom Clancy novel to become a film.
All right, thinking about the 1990 film, there are some basic rules you’re told to adhere to before starting the Q and A on Filmillion:
- Think about a movie
- Answer *about* 30 questions
- Filmillion will guess the movie
Simple enough. Let’s see how things go. While every question asked will be listed here, not all will be commented on. Some will draw commentary because it’s debatable in one way or another (and not necessarily toward the film itself). In total, Filmillion may ask 50 questions before giving up. Every time I’ve played has gone to 50, and every time the site has been shooting wildly with its guesses (usually two films will be guessed at most and sometimes three).
- Does this film feature a lot of special effects?
Not really, no.
- Are there any combat, action or battle scenes in the movie?
This one is debatable. Red October is deeper than a standard military movie; it’s not like this is “Top Gun”. Still, the climax (Red October and the USS Dallas dealing with the Konovalov and an incident on board Red October) does qualify as a battle scene. It just happens to be underwater. So, yes.
- Are there any children in the film?
This is also the first example of how opinion can throw off Filmillion. Sally Ryan is indeed in the movie. Sally Ryan has ONE scene in the movie. Yes or no? I opt for a “Not Sure” vote because of not being sure if a minor performance is worthy of a “yes”.
- Was it produced in the 21st century?
- Does the main character find their love in the film?
- Is the film about war?
This is a red flag question. The answer is No and stand by it, but it involves the political Cold War. It involves military craft, military decorated characters from the United States and Russia. It features a battle between defecting Russian troops, United States Naval officers, and the Soviet Union.War is not a secret battle. War is not an escape act. Yet the ignorant perspective is that what I’ve listed above makes it a war film. Red October is chased by its own country! Jeffrey Pelt throws around the term when talking about the USSRs naval activity with the ambassador for the Soviets! It’s war! It’s war! It’s another question slighted by opinion. It’s not war.
- Is it a short film (60 minutes or less)?
- Is it full length (about 3 hours)?
- Is there any sequel to the film?
Jack Ryan has had several movies, three are directly tied together though the cast vastly shifts (Red October, Patriot Games, and Clear and Present Danger).
- Are there any uncommon or fictional beings?
No. This isn’t sci-if.
- Is it a comedy movie?
- Does the film tell the story of multiple characters?
This is another debatable question but how John McTiernan shot this film was to give two leads – Jack Ryan and Marco Ramius. Hell, it was the fact the film didn’t offer a proper lead that Harrison Ford objected to being in the movie (he got the Patriot Games starring role with thanks to a scheduling conflict for Alec Baldwin).But again, this is a debatable question and response. Jack Ryan is the protagonist in the film. Someone can see the things that happen to Ramius and what had happened to Ramius as just filler. It happens to be plot filler that helps make the movie though.
- Were you scared while watching the movie?
This is a deeply flawed reaction question. Is it trying to sniff out if we’re thinking horror film or sci-if? The latter part of that question is also another flaw of Filmillion: its inability to change available questions by putting weight in responses.
The answer for me is “no” but if you’re a kid and watching and attached to the characters, that might be a “yes”.
- Is the main character or his friend black?
And this might be my error in people’s perception. Admiral James Greer is James Earl Jones. Greer seems like a friend to Ryan. The problem is the question; I took it as a duo/direct involvement question (a potential lead to Lethal Weapon among other films). Greer is a major player in the Tom Clancy movies. One can suggest this answer threw things off for Filmillion. But other questions will show you Filmillion itself is thrown off.
- Is Francis Ford Coppola the director of the film?
15th question and there seems to be a potential lead to Filmillion… or so the question seems to pain by way of a very direct film staff / cast question. To answer the question: No.
- Is this movie about a family?
- Is there a “Lone Rangers” in the film?
This one outright confuses me. What is the Lone Ranger supposed to signify? A loner hero? A cowboy hero? Is this trying to deduce an over-the-top action film? I feel guilt answering “not sure” as Jack Ryan was a loner for the most part, but this is closer to an espionage film or a political thriller than what I’d associate the Lone Ranger with. It’s also another example of how opinion makes certain questions flawed.
- Is the film based on a true story?
- Is the film about betrayal?
- Is there drug use in the film?
- Is the main character a police man / investigator?
No, and this is where question quality mars things again. Jack Ryan is an analyst but he’s involved as a point man (an expendable one) in trying to discover the truth: If Red October is trying to defect or not. Someone could easily vote “yes” here.
- Does it star a famous actor?
Sean Connery sharing the lead with Baldwin alone locks in that “famous” title. Connery is huge while, at the time, Baldwin was not that monumental. His famous-famous role preceding this was Beetlejuice. But there are other stars or men who became stars. Richard Jordan plays Jeffrey Pelt, Sam Neil (before his superstardom via Jurassic Park) is an integral character in the movie. Scott Glenn plays Bart Mancuso. As already noted, James Earl Jones is Admiral Greer. That’s a lot of famous characters.
- Does the main character die?
- Is the main character a woman?
- Does this film discuss the meaning of life?
- Are there cool special effects in the movie?
This is another deduction flaw of Filmillion. I’ve already said no on an earlier question. It shows how the program does not pay heed to answers and rid itself of certain questions that are unnecessary. It’s an issue that tends to play out further, with certain topics being repeated that already received a no vote (love, romance, horror, sci-if).
- Is this a black-and-white film?
- Was there a distinctive briefcase in the film?
Oh, there was a distinctive item in the film, the Red October It wasn’t a briefcase though. The question does seem to feel towards spy movies, or perhaps Pulp Fiction (though we already stated, no drug use in the movie). At any rate, the answer is no.
With that being all said, Filmillion makes its first attempt at a guess at question #29:
The Magnificent Seven from 1960? Uh, no. Again, deduction is elusive outright. The film was not black-and-white! Mind you, a lot of what I said kept this flick open for possible work (I think…?) but the black-and-white aspect kills it off. Heck, even if this was the 2016 version, it’s been closed off by another answer already (was this film made in the 21st century).
So, after telling Filmillion no, the game resumes:
- Does the film have a clone/prototype/parody or remake?
- Are there any heroes in the movie?
The question is a lot clearer than the “Lone Ranger” question earlier. Jack Ryan is the clear protagonist, working to aid Ramius in his defection attempt.
- Does the movie tell about a person’s life or destiny?
No, though it does discuss backstory for Ramius and Ryan.
- Is the movie a classic film?
Red flag and question fail. “Classic” is opinion in many senses of the word. To me, Red October is a classic. I don’t know if the cinema industry or media or fans have labeled it the same or have the same affection for it. This type of response (personal opinion versus common perception) makes this question an utter failure. It’s also another case of deduction failings; there’s been stuff said that makes “classic” labeling useless. I selected “no” simply for the sake of having a clear answer. If it’s been penned in as a classic in common opinion escapes me. I may be wrong. The question itself sure as hell is.
- Are there animals play important parts in the film?
Stuffed animals don’t count, and even then Stanley the bear doesn’t exactly do much. So, no.
- Does the main character become rich?
- Is it crime?
I mean this as a joke but the Soviets were sure robbed in the film. In general though, no.
- Does the main character wear a suit?
Another questionable question. We’re talking normal people clothing? Yes, Jack wears a casual suit. Or is “suit” supposed to mean a superhero costume? That’s a certain “no”. I answered “yes” to treat the question like it is asking normal things here.
- Is it sci-if?
Not unless you latch on to the fictional caterpillar drive that Red October utilizes.
- Is the film about robbers and bandits?
- Does the main character have any special marks (scars, tattoos, birth marks)?
No, though the story does note Ryan survived a bad accident that led to major back surgery and issues. Those aren’t seen or a factor in the movie.
- Is the film about a fiction world?
Another deduction failure. I’ve said it’s not a sci-fi movie. It’s fiction.
- Are there any advanced devices or gadgets?
Okay, this one is a genuine tough question compared to some of the others that I wrote about. I noted above the caterpillar drive (the Magnetohydrodynamic propulsion unit) is part of what drives the story (no pun intended). It’s a major factor why the Russians want to stop Ramius’ defection and why the Americans are both fearful of him and want to aid his escape: They want the technology. I’ll answer the question “yes” but it’s not a handy item or seen much in the movie. It’s just there and a major factor.
- Is someone murdered during the film?
Heck, Ramius himself does a killing and hides the fact he offed the guy.
- Is it USA-based production?
Huh? Was it filmed in the US entirely? No. Was it made by an American film company with US control? Yeah. A very international cast is involved. Some scenes were shot on open waters and perhaps at international locations, but this was an American movie.
- Does the film have many action scenes?
Combat, which was cited above? It has two of note but they’re not intense action. They feel more like tension and strategy. I answer this one no.
With only 5 questions left from Filmillion, the program made a second guess and dropped a bombshell on me:
I’ve used the site so many times with several films, including The Hunt for Red October. This is the first time anything has been successfully guessed. And that came by way of chance. I’ve pointed out all too-many flaws in questioning and how opinion can sway answers differently. I’m still taken aback with this.
The repetition of some of the questions (sci-if) has struck before. One movie I had in mind was a musical and while questions led (late, again) in the direction of a music driven film, Filmillion latched on to The Blues Brothers, asking repeatedly if Dan Aykroyd was in the film before (still) asking if the film was Blues Brothers (in the very last question).
I don’t know how wide a range has been employed by those who have tried Filmillion; I might be an old fart while use is dominated by teens and 20-somethings. Perhaps there is a wider degree of use? Never the less, there are warts to be dealt with and certain answers, swayed by personal perspective, that’ll gum things up. It’s worth taking a shot at Filmillion for a few minutes of your time and entertainment (or eye rolling frustration and disappointment).