johnlink ranks CLEAR AND PRESENT DANGER (1994)

This film is the third Jack Ryan film. It is also the second and final film to star Harrison Ford. The major players from the second film came back, including James Earl Jones, Anne Archer, Thora Birch, some of the CIA operatives (including Ted Raimi!), and Director Phillip Noyce. The scenario is new, the villains are new, and the scope is new. All that said, CLEAR AND PRESENT DANGER represents the height of the franchise.

I watched CLEAR AND PRESENT DANGER (1994) on 8.1.12. It was probably my tenth viewing of the film and first in a half-dozen years.

All of these films have great casts comprised of solid actors. In addition to the aforementioned folks, CLEAR AND PRESENT DANGER adds Willem Dafoe as a Black Ops leader, Joaquim de Almeida (DESPERADO) as the ‘Latin Jack Ryan’, Doanld Moffat (the guy who looks exactly like the farmer from BABE) as the President,  Benjamin Bratt as a generic military guy, Raymond Cruz as Ding Chavez (the character who eventually goes on to be a major part of Clancy’s RAINBOW SIX series), Henry Czerny (THE A TEAM) as the hate-inspired weasel of the NSA, and Harris Yulin (SCARFACE, TRAINING DAY) as Czerny’s boss. Most of these, other than Dafoe, are people you look at and say “Hey wasn’t (s)he the actor from (fill in the blank)”. But the performances in this really are solid.

Where PATRIOT GAMES got small, this film goes big. The US is battling its drug war with Colombian cartels as Jack Ryan goes from analyst to NSA decision maker. Of course, he accidentally inserts himself into the action. One of the strengths of this film is the way Ryan doesn’t want to be the hero. He happens to survive a couple of altercations, but he’s not throwing people around anymore. The action in this film really is born out of the espionage and the back-stabbing going on. Director Phillip Noyce has expressed some regret that the final action piece doesn’t match the mid-film ambush. In one sense he is right, but this film would have been wrong if it had been Ryan and Latin Jack Ryan fighting to the death in somebody’s front lawn. The way it ends actually suits the tone of the picture while also highlighting the fact that it is the troops, not the analysts, who get shit done.

What happens after the action I am less than thrilled about. This next paragraph has SPOILERS so just skip it if you care. The rest of the article will be a good boy, I promise.

Ryan lives and goes into the President’s office to place the blame on him. The President tries to coax Ryan into keeping quiet, and Ryan refuses. Maybe I’m too cynical about politics, but everything the President says about the reputation of Greer and Ryan being the only things to suffer absolutely holds water. I have no faith that a Congressional oversight committee is going to do the right thing.


This film finds a nice pace, slowly pulling the layers of the connections back while asking us to keep up with all the players interwoven. This isn’t as complex as something like SYRIANA, but much of the novel gets compacted into a tight 140 minutes. I enjoy this film a ton, and I have seen it enough to truly anticipate the big moments. I wish Ryan got a little more redemption on his Washington enemies, but there is plenty else to cheer for.

I specifically like the way the American troops subplot plays out. This is a really solid show of the way these guys can be treated like pawns in a bigger game.  The ambush sequence is also amazing (it is also supposedly used by some trainers within Washington for how an ambush like that could look). And while the film utilizes ‘state of the art 1994 computers’, it somehow feels more like a good period piece than a 90s movie trying to be hip and ever-present. The movie feels of its time in a good way, not in the way some can’t escape their era.

While Han Solo and Indiana Jones will always be Harrison Ford’s most iconic roles, it is worth noting that Jack Ryan is the only other character he has played in more than one film. While the movies may not be absolutely exceptional, they will always hold a place in this movie-lover’s heart. It’s a genre I love, a character which may be better than any of the individual movies, and one which could be done better. Why am I saying this now rather than after finishing the series? Because last I remember, THE SUM OF ALL FEARS was not exactly a positive experience. To be continued…





~ by johnlink00 on August 2, 2012.

One Response to “johnlink ranks CLEAR AND PRESENT DANGER (1994)”

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