Implausable Alternate History Wiki
The Cardinal of the Kremlin

Directed by

Philip Noyce

Produced by

Mace Neufeld
Robert Rehme

Written by

John Milius
Donald E. Stewart
Steve Zailian

Based on

The Cardinal of the Kremlin
by Tom Clancy

Release date

August 3, 1994


Harrison Ford
William Shatner
Willem Dafoe
James Earl Jones
Gary Oldman


$62 million

Box office income

$218 million


135 minutes


Paramount Pictures

The Cardinal of the Kremlin is a 1994 American spy thriller film directed by Phillip Noyce and based on Tom Clancy's novel of the same name. It was preceded by the 1990 film The Hunt for Red October and the 1992 film Patriot Games, all three featuring Clancy's character Jack Ryan. It is the second film version of Clancy's novels to feature Harrison Ford as Ryan, as well as the second one directed by Noyce.

As in the novel, Ryan is part of an American diplomatic delegation to the Soviet Union when he learns of the capture of one of the CIA's best intelligence assets in Moscow, the agent code-named CARDINAL. The film premiered in the United States on August 3, 1994, and was a major financial success, earning over $200 million at the box office.


In 1988, CIA analyst Jack Ryan (Ford) attends a diplomatic conference in Moscow as part of an American delegation to the Soviet Union. He learns that the CIA's most highly placed agent, codenamed "CARDINAL", is none other than Colonel Mikhail Semyonovich Filitov (Shatner), the personal aide to the Soviet Minister of Defense and a national war hero. Filitov was recruited by GRU colonel and British agent Oleg Penkovsky, and offered his services to the CIA after the deaths of his wife and two sons; the latter two were killed during their service in the Red Army. As a result, Filitov has been passing political, technical, and military intelligence to the CIA for the past thirty years.

Filitov is arrested after his work for the CIA is discovered. However, Ryan concocts a plan to both secure the return of Filitov and arrange the defection of the sitting KGB chairman, Nikolay Borisovich Gerasimov (Koenig). Gerasimov is angling to take over as General Secretary in the wake of Filitov's arrest, something Ryan is determined to prevent because of his unyielding anti-American ideology. Ryan schemes to go public with the prior capture of the Soviet submarine Red October, banking on the political instability of the Soviet Politburo. He plans for Filitov and Gerasimov to be exfiltrated on the American delegation's aircraft, while Gerasimov's family is extracted from Estonia by John Clark (Dafoe) onto the submarine USS Dallas. He reveals this in a private meeting with Gerasimov, forcing the KGB chairman's hand.

On Gerasimov's orders, three KGB officers kidnap US Army Major Alan Gregory (Spader), the Americans' top SDI researcher, and hold him in a shabby desert safe house, planning to send him to Moscow for debriefing as counter-leverage should he refuse to defect and Ryan reveal the intelligence windfall, along with the nuclear missiles the U.S. received when the Red October crew defected. Their plans are foiled when the FBI sends in the Hostage Rescue Team to retrieve Gregory and return him to Long. All of the KGB agents involved in the kidnapping are killed. Ryan informs Gerasimov of the failed operation, forcing the enraged chairman to accept Ryan's defection offer. A KGB agent within SDI is arrested when she attempts to seduce Gregory's girlfriend after Gregory is reported kidnapped, though she had originally only wanted to comfort her.

The flipped Gerasimov fetches Filitov from his confinement. The three make their way to Sheremetyevo Airport, awaiting the departure of the American delegation. Unfortunately, two KGB officers, Klementi Vladimirovich Vatutin (Malkovich), the KGB officer who had been interrogating Filitov and finally extracted a confession from him, and Sergey Nikolayevch Golovko (Oldman), who would become an old, somewhat friendly acquaintance of Ryan's over the years, become aware of their planned departure. As Gerasimov and Filitov escape, Ryan allows himself to be captured by Golovko, banking on his diplomatic status to protect him from harm. Golovko then escorts Ryan to the private dacha of General Secretary Andrey Narmonov (Molina), where the two men discuss the CIA's interest in his political position and the CIA's interference in their internal security.

Ryan returns to the United States, where he and several others attend the funeral of Filitov, who had died of heart disease in the months following his CIA debriefing period. Filitov is buried at Camp David, within twenty miles of the Antietam battlefield. A Soviet military attaché attending the funeral questions why Filitov would be buried so close to American soldiers. Ryan, always working to keep the peace, explains to him, "One way or another, we all fight for what we believe in. Doesn't that give us some common ground?"