Thu, 07 Dec 2023

Clear and Present Danger

Director: Phillip Noyce
Screenplay: Donald Stewart and Steven Zaillian and John Milius (based on the novel by Tom Clancy)
Stars: Harrison Ford (Jack Ryan), Willem Dafoe (Clark), Anne Archer (Cathy Ryan), Joaquim de Almeida (Felix Cortez), Henry Czerny (Robert Ritter), Harris Yulin (James Cutter), Donald Moffat (President Bennett), Miguel Sandoval (Ernesto Escobedo), Benjamin Bratt (Captain Ramirez), Raymond Cruz (Chavez), Dean Jones (Judge Moore), Thora Birch (Sally Ryan), Ann Magnuson (Moira Wolfson), James Earl Jones (Admiral Greer)
MPAA Rating: PG-13
Year of Release: 1994
Country: U.S.
Jack Ryan 4K Box Set

Clear and Present Danger

The release of Clear and Present Danger, the third film in four years based on one of Tom Clancy's best-selling political techno-thrillers featuring CIA analyst Jack Ryan, made one thing abundantly clear: Each film in the series was a distinct entity, connected to the other films and yet different. The first entry, The Hunt for Red October (1990), was a classic cut-from-the-Cold-War yarn of American-Soviet nuclear tensions, while Patriot Games (1992), which had Harrison Ford replacing Alec Baldwin as Ryan, was more of a family thriller, with Ryan's wife and child being targeted by an offshoot of the IRA.

Clear and Present Danger, despite sharing the same director (Phillip Noyce) and star as Patriot Games and most of the production team, is an entirely different beast, eschewing the personal in favor of a broader political narrative about corruption and military malfeasance at the highest levels of government. It is both cutting in its indictment of how power corrupts even the best intentions and bravely optimistic in asserting that, not only can one maintain one's sense of honor and integrity in a system rigged against such old-fashioned values, but very possibly make all the difference in the world. It's a fascinating film to watch 25 years later in the pits of the Trump Era.

Ford returns as Ryan, although now he finds himself elevated far beyond the role of analyst to acting director of the CIA due to a terminal cancer diagnosis for the current director Admiral Greer (James Earl Jones, reprising the role for a third time). Ryan is an intelligence officer and occasional man of action, but not a politician, which is why Greer gives him some sage advice about politics in Washington: "Watch your back, Jack." No amount of back-watching is going to fully protect someone like Ryan, who genuinely wants to do the right thing, and it isn't long before he is unknowingly embroiled in an illegal covert operation run by CIA Deputy Director of Operations Robert Ritter (Henry Czerny) at the behest of the President of the United States (Donald Moffat), who is far from a full-fledged Trumpian scoundrel, but still willing to bend the rules, look the other way, and otherwise break the law if it gets him what he wants.

And what he and the other Washington officials want is control over the film's "clear and present danger": the Colombian drug cartels, which are here embodied by Pablo Escobar stand-in Ernesto Escobedo (Miguel Sandoval) and his shadowy advisor Felix Cortez (Joaquim de Almeid). As the film makes clear, the cartels are indeed deeply dangerous and violent, although the film's title could just as easily extend to Washington bureaucrats whose clandestine activities run the risk of utterly undermining the rule of law (Clancy's chief inspiration in writing the novel was the Iran-Contra scandal). It is telling that Clark (Willem Dafoe), the mercenary selected to run the illegal operation, turns from villain to redeemed hero alongside Jack because, in the end, he truly cares about his men, all of which were handpicked from the military and have no idea that they are engaging in officially unsanctioned activity south of the border.

Much of the film's action unfolds in Colombia, and it features some of the biggest action setpieces of the Jack Ryan series, including a firefight in the jungle and an extended rescue operation that climaxes with Ryan hanging from the skid of a helicopter while being shot at from below. Even though Ryan is first and foremost a man of ideas and intellect, the films can't help but turn him into an action hero. The ending of Patriot Games was just a hair short of being ludicrous, and Noyce and company seem to have learned that lesson, as Ryan's action heroics here have a rougher, more realistic quality. Ryan, who is demeaned more than once as a "Boy Scout" by various corrupt officials, is perhaps the perfect American hero: smart, resourceful, willing and able to engage in violence when necessary, and above all honest and forthright.

Interestingly, the film's best scene does not involve mano-a-mano fisticuffs, but rather Ryan hacking into Ritter's computer and trying to download incriminating documents before Ritter can delete them. It is one of Hollywood's first instances of using cyberwarfare as a trope (we would see it again the next year in Barry Levinson's adaptation of Michael Crichton's Disclosure), and it works via the mechanics of editing and rhythm, culminating in an angry faceoff as the two men simultaneously explode out of their office doors, which are right across the hall from each other. Ryan's righteous indignation runs full-on into Ritter's cynical calculation, and in that moment we truly feel the weight of decades of indoctrinated corruption coming down on the last honest man in Washington.

Clear and Present Danger 4K UHD + Blu-ray
Aspect Ratio2.35:1

  • English DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 surround
  • German Dolby Digital 5.1 surround
  • Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1 surround
  • French Dolby Digital 5.1 surround
  • French (Canada) Dolby Digital 5.1 surround
  • Italian Dolby Digital 5.1 surround
  • Japanese Dolby Digital 5.1 surround
  • Portuguese Dolby Digital 5.1 surround
  • Russian Dolby Digital 5.1 surround
  • Subtitles English, English SDH, French, German, Italian, Japanese, Portuguese, Spanish, Arabic, Cantonese, Czech, Danish, Dutch, Finnish, Greek, Hindi, Hungarian, Icelandic, Korean, Malay, Mandarin (Simplified), Norwegian, Polish, Romanian, Russian, Slovak, Swedish, Thai, Turkish


    The Hunt for Red October

  • Audio commentary by director John McTiernan
  • "Beneath the Surface" featurette
  • Trailer
  • Patriot Games

  • "Patriot Games: Up Close" featurette
  • Trailer
  • Clear and Present Danger

  • "Clear and Present Danger: Behind the Danger" featurette
  • Trailer
  • The Sum of All Fears

  • Audio commentary by director Phil Alden Robinson and cinematographer John Lindley
  • Audio commentary by director Phil Alden Robinson and novelist Tom Clancy
  • "The Making of The Sum of All Fears" featurette
  • "Creating Reality: The Visual Effects of The Sum of All Fears"
  • Trailer
  • Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit

  • Audio commentary by director Kenneth Branagh and producer Lorenzo di Bonaventura
  • "Jack Ryan: The Smartest Guy in the Room" featurette
  • "Sir Kenneth Branagh: The Tsar of Shadow Recruit" featurette
  • "Jack Ryan: A Thinking Man of Action" featurette
  • "Old Enemies Return" featurette
  • Deleted and extended scenes
  • DistributorParamount Home Entertainment
    SRP$69.99 (box set)
    Release DateAugust 21, 2018

    All five films in the "Jack Ryan: 5-Film Collection" are presented in impressive new 4K UHD transfers that offer demonstrably stronger image quality than the previously available Blu-rays (which, I should mention, still look pretty good). The first four films in the series (The Hunt for Red October, Patriot Games, Clear and Present Danger, and The Sum of All Fears) were scanned in 4K Dolby Vision (with 12-bit color) from the original camera negatives and given a new color pass that was supervised and approved by each film's respective director (except for Red October, which was supervised by cinematographer Jan De Bont). Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit is a direct digital port of the original HDR files. The images are sharper, clearer, and boast significantly better detail and stronger color, which is particularly evident in the older films. The new presentations really allow us to appreciate the development of the series' visuals over time, from the definitive McTiernan style in The Hunt for Red October, which is heavy on shallow focus and lens flares, to Branagh's sleek, metallic-hued Shadow Recruit. To Paramount's credit, they don't try to do anything unnecessary with the older films, allowing their celluloid origins to remain pleasingly noticeable. The first four films feature robust, lossless Dolby TrueHD 5.1-channel surround soundtracks, while Shadow Recruit boasts a 7.1-channel DTS-HD Master Audio mix. The underwater sonics of Red October are impressively mounted in the surround channels, while the various explosions that occur in all the films have an appropriately thundering quality. Shadow Recruit, being the newest of the five films and the only one presented in 7.1, has the most active and densest soundtrack, although I was duly impressed with the immersive qualities of the speedboat chase in Patriot Games and the climactic battle in Clear and Present Danger, not to mention Harrison Ford and Donald Moffat's subsequent war of words in the Oval Office.

    All of the supplements have been recycled from the previous DVD and Blu-ray editions. On The Hunt for Red October, we have an audio commentary by director John McTiernan, a trailer, and the 30-minute retrospective featurette "Beneath the Surface," which includes circa-2003 interviews with McTiernan, producer Mace Nuefeld, screenwriter Larry Ferguson, and actors Alec Baldwin, James Earl Jones, and Sean Connery (whose interview was recorded on-set during production). There is no commentary on Patriot Games, but it does include a trailer and the half-hour retrospective featurette "Patriot Games: A Closer Look," which includes interviews with director Phillip Noyce, producer Mace Neufeld, screenwriter W. Peter Iliff, and stars Harrison Ford, Anne Archer, and James Earl Jones. Similarly, Clear and Present includes only a trailer and the retrospective featurette "Clear and Present Danger: Behind the Danger," which runs close to half an hour and includes interviews with most of the same personnel that appeared in the Patriot Games featurette. The Sum of All Fears has a much heavier set of supplements, beginning with not one, but two audio commentaries, the first by director Phil Alden Robinson and cinematographer John Lindley and the second by Robinson and novelist Tom Clancy, which makes this the only commentary on a Jack Ryan film to feature the character's creator talking about the film. There are also two half-hour featurettes-"The Making of The Sum of All Fears" and "Creating Reality: The Visual Effects of The Sum of All Fears-and a trailer. Similarly, there is quite a bit more supplementary material on the Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit disc, starting with an informative audio commentary by director Kenneth Branagh and producer Lorenzo di Bonaventura. We also get a quartet of featurettes: "Jack Ryan: The Smartest Guy in the Room" is a 14-minute look at how the character was reinvented for the new film that includes interviews with Branagh, actors Chris Pine and Kiera Knightley, and producer Mace Neufeld, among others; "Sir Kenneth Branagh: The Tsar of Shadow Recruit is a 10-minute love letter to Branagh as actor and director; "Jack Ryan: A Thinking Man of Action" is a 5-minute look at some of the film's major action sequences; and "Old Enemies Return" is a surprisingly robust 21-minute look at the historical use of Russians as enemies in Hollywood films that includes interviews with several political scientists and historians. Finally, there are 5 minutes of deleted and extended scenes, including an alternate ending, all of which can be played with optional commentary by Branagh and di Bonaventura.

    Copyright © 2018 James Kendrick

    Thoughts? E-mail James Kendrick

    All images copyright © Paramount Home Entertainment

    Overall Rating: (3)


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