Clear and Present Danger - 1994
Director(s): Phillip Noyce
Writer(s): Donald E. Stewart, Steven Zaillian and John Milius (screenplay) / Tom Clancy (novel)
Cinematography by: Donald McAlpine
Editor(s): Neil Travis
Cast: Harrison Ford, James Earl Jones Willem Dafoe, Joaquim de Almeida, Anne Archer, Henry Czerny, Harris Yulin, Benjamin Bratt, Miguel Sandoval and Raymond Cruz
Synopsis: CIA Analyst Jack Ryan is drawn into an illegal war fought by the US government against a Colombian drug cartel (IMDB).
Jack Ryan quietly has gotten a lot of work done on his face and body. First back in 1990, The Hunt for Red October, he had an Alec Baldwin looking face. Then from 1992, Patriot Games, and 1994, Clear and Present Danger, he somehow looked like Harrison Ford. He took eight-years off and in 2002, The Sum of all Fears, somehow got younger and darker hair like a Ben Affleck type. That movie didn’t do too good so he decided he needed a different look and in 2012, Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit, he got back to his lighter hair in a Chris Pine look. Now, he decided the movies aren’t the way to go and he is headed to Amazon later this year for a ten-episode series and he kind of looks like John Krasinski. So, I’ve decided to go back and revisit what everyone calls the best Ryan movie, Clear and Present Danger.
Along with Harrison Ford, director Phillip Noyce came back to the Clancy well to deliver another intelligent action thriller. Look, if you come in expecting your typical 90s action movie you will be disappointed. This movie focuses more on the intelligence-gathering side as Ryan is playing a game of chess with both the cartel and his government peers trying to uncover the entire truth. Woven in-between the back-room conversations and Ryan’s digging around are well directed action sequences to pump in to heart pumping events keeping the audience engaged. What I like about the movie is that is both boring and action packed, perfectly mirroring Ryan’s CIA job.
The story naturally progresses from Ryan peeling back the layers, slowly discovering the truth about the mystery set-up at the beginning. The script doesn’t force Ryan to become an action hero by his choice; he is thrown into the middle of this drug war and only reacts to it. Any other movie, the analyst would’ve acted out of character by trying to be Rambo, but here they trust the audience to understand the evolution of the character and how he resolves the problem in the end with a senate hearing. Exciting.
Harrison Ford as Ryan delivers a subdued yet pointed performance. He plays a man hanging on to his convictions and core values as he tries to do his job. That’s pretty much it - he is just trying to do his job and the political system tries to get in the way. But, even when face to face with the president of the United States, Ryan sticks to his guns with an extremely well delivered monologue by Ford. Joaquin de Almeida is a great villain even if he has been eternally typecast. Willem Dafoe has a great arc as a career military man, betrayed by the government, determined to do the right thing. Henry Czerny is probably my favorite character as he plays the governmental counterpart to Ryan and he is the living embodiment of the word douche.
Clear and Present Danger is not your typical action movie. It can be called a thriller or it can be called a drama, but I just call it an entertaining movie. This is by far the best iteration of Jack Ryan and it’s hard to see anyone topping the determination and conviction Ford gave his character. Phillip Noyce is an underrated director that has a lot of action movies under his belt and this one is his gem. Before watching the Amazon series, re-watch the bar set by Ford and Noyce to understand why this well keeps getting revisited. Ford’s monologue to the president is why I love movies.
Clear and Present Danger is currently streaming on Amazon Prime. Watch it, if you want.
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