A skillful, efficient film that involves us in the clever and deceptive game being played by Ramius and in the best efforts of those on both sides to figure out what he plans to do with his submarine - and how he plans to do it.
McTiernan does not fall too much in love with any scene, character or gadget. He has judged his material (and our attention spans) very well. His alternation of menace and human interest, technological wizardry and action sequences is subtly calibrated, ultimately hypnotic in its effect. [5 Mar 1990, p.70]
Colorful and exciting, yet unless you're a young moviegoer, nothing in it takes you by complete surprise. (It's less a nail-biter than a chin-stroker.)
Mick LaSalleSan Francisco Chronicle
Even when it's hard to follow, it looks good. The undersea action is visually convincing, and Ramius' submarine, with all its rooms and compartments, is always believable. The moonlit photography in the picture's final scene is stunning. [2 Mar 1990, Daily Datebook, p.E1]
Stanley KauffmannThe New Republic
Little in [Connery's] character is explored or colored. It's not a highly complex role, but the man has qualities that could make him interesting; after all, it's his aberrant action that initiates the whole naval plot. Connery merely fulfills his contractual obligations to the producer-no depth in him at all. [26 Mar 1990, p.26]
Jonathan RosenbaumChicago Reader
The film mechanically uses the crosscutting technique made famous by Kubrick's "Dr. Strangelove" without any of its wit or focused energy.
David SterrittChristian Science Monitor
Like the nuclear sub it's named after, the picture is big, shiny, and expensive. It's also cold, hard, and cumbersome, and lacking the barest hint of emotional or psychological depth. [9 Mar 1990, Arts, p.10]