After an enjoyable shoot for Patriot Games, the crew for the film stayed tightly knit and reunited for a sequel that arrived in theaters two years after the last. Clear and Present Danger brought back Harrison Ford in the starring role of Jack Ryan, along with James Earl Jones as Admiral James Greer, Anne Archer as Cathy Ryan and even brought in some new faces with the likes of Willem Dafoe and Joaquim de Almeida. With a lower MPAA rating than its predecessor, Clear and Present Danger brought in more money domestically than the previous two films in the series. Despite the increased revenue stream, Clear and Present Danger was the final Jack Ryan film for nearly a decade and the last for Harrison Ford.
When Jack Ryan (Ford)’s mentor, Admiral James Greer (Jones) falls ill, Ryan takes his place temporarily as acting CIA Deputy Director of Intelligence. While in this post, Ryan’s duties take him to Columbia where his task is to investigate the murder of one of the President’s close friends. After discovering the reason for the President’s friend’s murder, and nearly getting killed himself, Ryan returns home only to later find out that a covert military operation is still underway to wipe out the men responsible for the President’s friends death. Upon discovering this, Ryan must find a way to get himself out of the crossfire and risks his career, and life, to fight for the only thing he can still believe in: the truth.
Ok so I stole some of that description from the back of the packaging. It’s hard to come up with my own summary for this film simply because of how slowly it moved along. I got lost in the myriad of scenes that made up the film and began to lose the whole point and plot of the film. At one point I even forgot why the military operation was even going on and I had to wait for the movie to begin to repeat itself before I was finally reminded why it was happening. This was partly in due to the fact that Ryan really wasn’t in this film as much as I’d liked him to be; it was very similar to The Hunt for Red October where he was present, but not enough to be the “star” of the film entirely. We got too much Presidential crap thrown in with the rest of it that it felt like a 50/50 split, with the non-Ryan portion dragging the film down.
The movie was littered with moments that I didn’t find particularly enjoyable. Although the first Ford focused film had a foreign government causing trouble, when it switched to our own taking on Drug dealers I just became wholly uninterested in the whole thing. The private elite team to take out the cartel just didn’t sit well with me and the whole idea seemed a bit unnecessary. In addition the President himself annoyed me to no end, as did the members surrounding him. Jack’s triumphant “I will not stand for this, not even from you!” speech at the end of the film was heroic and patriotic and all, but I didn’t know whether it was because I actually believed what Ryan was saying or it was just because I wanted the president to be told off. If I didn’t know any better I’d say that he was a parody of current president George W. Bush…but that’s impossible for this time, as Clinton was in office (or maybe it was a parody of him and all Presidents act like idiots, I don’t know).
With Jack’s semi-uninvolvement with the CIA in the last film, his full involvement in this one is rather curious. His wife remarked she couldn’t “go back to that life” in Patriot Games, yet everything seems fine here. That’s something these films don’t really have too much in common about; they never reference one another and aside from the characters and a piece of dialogue throw back here and there, nothing makes it really feel like one big world. I guess they simply didn’t want to make the series seem so “You have to see the previous ones first!” and make them easier to jump into, especially since everyone of the 1990 Jack Ryan films featured a different MPAA rating, making the audiences for each a bit different with each release.
A lot of the film simply felt over bloated and unnecessary, while the characters we’re used to had their screen time cut down. This is a shame as I really just wanted to see more of these characters and instead I had to sit through the drug dealers and U.S. Government character pieces so I could get back to those that I became acquainted with over the previous two films. When we did go back to the familiar characters, we often ended up in preachy territory and as patriotic as Jack Ryan is, his speeches with Robert Ritter (Henry Czerny) and President Bennett (Donald Moffat) were just over-drenched in righteousness to the point where even I was feeling like it was too much. Perhaps it was trying to alleviate some of the flack Patriot Games took for its portrayal of other countries in the world by making the U.S. look just as bad in return, which is fine, I’ve no problem with equal representation…but the way it was handled here just really irked me. You only ever see the U.S. acting wrongly when there’s an airhead president behind the desk and the buck can be passed around to those around him rather than the President himself.
With that random rant out of the way (I hadn’t planned on typing that out, honest), I can focus on the rest of the film…or, rather, I would if there was anything to talk about. The political events aside, the film was really lackluster in excitement or thrills, although the boxed in car shootout was quite an edge-of-your-seat moment, that momentum rarely returned to the film and it merely coasted along to its ending afterwards.
Of the first three Jack Ryan films, Clear and Present Danger is definitely my least favorite. The plot seems needlessly complicated and by the time you get through all of the boring political talk, you are left with a rather empty husk of a film. Ford’s portrayal as Ryan is once again left up to the audience to fill in, as the character once again seems like a shell the audience has to step into to really get into the film, which, as I stated in my Patriot Games review, is perfectly fine and works for the character. The only problem is that when the film rests on you being invested in the main character, who then doesn’t appear on screen for half of the film, you begin to lose interest and your mind wanders. An hour into the film I checked to see how long I had left to go and was dismayed to see I had nearly another hour and a half to go. It will test your patience and the payoff is little, but if you’re a fan of the Jack Ryan series, then Clear and Present Danger is still worth viewing for the return of the characters, even if it is the last we’ll see from this particular cast, as the next Ryan film, The Sum of All Fears went in a completely different (i.e., backward) direction. Rent It.
Standard case, standard grey disc art wash, standard insert for the firmware update notice and a rather generic menu system make up this release of Clear and Present Danger, along with another muddled transfer. Not quite as hideous as Patriot Games, Clear and Present Danger still comes with a nice, waxy coating that lifts all of the detail right off of the screen. It can’t be that difficult to see when a 1080p image lacks detail, but apparently someone’s monitors weren’t calibrated correctly when it came time to quality check these Tom Clancy film transfers. Fortunately the Dolby TrueHD 5.1 track picks up some of the slack in the technical department and makes for a fair surround experience, especially during the helicopter sequences in the film.
The extras on this release are a clone of Patriot Games: “Behind the Danger” (26:34), a 2002 making-of and the Theatrical Trailer (2:39, 1080p). As before the theatrical trailer boasts better image quality than the actual AVC encoded transfer of the film itself, although this time around there’s only 2.0 audio for the trailer. The making-of is an entertaining piece and we get the usual “oh everyone was just great!” chatter for the majority of it, but it calms down during the latter half of the extra where we really get into a bit of depth of the film. I have to wonder what Ford’s real feelings toward the film were, however, as he simply summed up the experience as “fun,” which usually means they enjoyed making it but didn’t enjoy the final product.
Overall this release can be Skipped. Pick up the DVD edition, which by this point is a lot cheaper than the Blu-ray release, as you may be losing resolution, by the time a good upscaling DVD/Blu-ray player gets done with it, it’ll may even end up looking a bit better than the transfer included here. That may be a bit of a lie, but I just can’t get over how poorly done the video transfers were for this release.
Clear and Present Danger is now available on Blu-ray.