Special Collector's Edition

Review by Gordon Justesen

Stars: Harrison Ford, Willem Dafoe, Anne Archer, James Earl Jones
Director: Phillip Noyce
Audio: Dolby Digital 5.1, DTS Surround, French Dolby Surround
Video: Anamorphic Widescreen 2.35:1
Studio: Paramount
Features: See Review
Length: 141 Minutes
Release Date: May 6, 2003

“You see everything in black and white.”

“Not black and white, RIGHT and WRONG!”

Film ****

When I am asked which of the Jack Ryan movies is my absolute favorite, I never hesitate with my response. While I can easily say that The Sum of All Fears and Hunt For Red October tie for second, my top favorite of the series has, is, and probably will always be Clear and Present Danger. I feel that this entry in the Jack Ryan adventures has a certain level of authenticity and epic quality that surpasses the other films. The story has many layers to it, the settings spread from one part of the globe to another, with pivotal story events occurring simultaneously, and the very political strategy behind the events in the story is rather mind-boggling in a way. This may have you thinking differently about how political power in America is executed.

Harrison Ford returns as Jack Ryan, whose life is back to normal following the trauma he and his family suffered in Patriot Games. Following the news that his longtime mentor, Greer (James Earl Jones), has been diagnosed with terminal cancer, Ryan discovers, much to his surprise, that he will be appointed as Deputy Director of the CIA. He is hesitant at first about filling in such big shoes, but he proceeds anyway. Little does he know that once sworn in, he will be in the middle of a horrendous cover up, devised by the very unthinkable.

Following a drug-related slaying of someone who was very close to the President, a covert op is constructed by two of the Presidents highest ranking associates, Ritter (Henry Czerny), head of the CIA and Cutter (Harris Yulin), National Security Advisor. Ritter personally assigns a contract mercenary named Clark (Willem Dafoe) to lead an elite team into the jungles of Columbia to wipe out the drug cartel responsible for the assassination. It will manage to become a complicated matter when Ryan, who after being sworn in, has agreed to not send any troops into South America, gets involved.

Meanwhile, in Bogotá, drug lord Ernesto Escobedo (Miguel Sandoval) is happy about the results of the slaying which he ordered, while his right hand man, Felix Cortez (Joaquim De Almeida), is frequently opposed to the way which his boss handles his business. As it turns out, the victim who was friends with the President left behind $650 million in an offshore account, which is no doubt drug money. When Escobedo learns that this money is being held by the President, he is furious, claiming it is being stolen from him. It also isn’t helping Escobedo that the very covert op that Clark was sent on is inevitably destroying the drug lord’s market. These two factors seem to ignite a deadly, but very covert battle, between both countries.

When assigned to visit Colombia to find any connection between the slaying and possible funding from drugs, Ryan, along with members of the FBI and Secret Service, are targeted by renegade Columbians, in an astonishing action sequence. Up against an army of extremist armed with machine guns and missile launchers, Ryan, who’s cohorts are wiped out, must elude unarmed by way of driving a caravan, which is literally in flames, out of dangerous territory.

It is here where Ryan discovers the possibility of being set up. It’s not too long after that when he suspects some wrong doings in the very office he works in, which may lead all the way to the highest level of power, but even this doesn’t prevent Ryan from proceeding to do justice and bring the truth to light.

Of all the films in the Jack Ryan series, this one certainly has something of novel feel to it, which is one of the big factors in its overall quality. I like the way the film cuts between settings at just the right time to show pivotal events taking place. Between Washington, Columbia, and the South American jungle, we are given glimpses of important stuff at the exact point and time it is needed to be discovered. I really feel this deserved an Oscar nomination for Film Editing.

Directed with top flight sharpness by Phillip Noyce (Patriot Games), Clear and Present Danger is one of those movies that grabs you and never lets go. The marvelous script adaptation by Donald Stewart, Steve Zaillian and John Milus is, I think, among the best delivered for any mainstream thriller, and Harrison Ford, being nearly overshadowed by other events in the movie, manages to still come out strong and on top as Jack Ryan. It also features a strong supporting cast, including a standout performance from Henry Czerny, who finds the right tone of despicability to his role.

Clear and Present Danger is the high point of the Jack Ryan series, for me at least, and remains the best of the series, and possibly will be for years to come, despite how many additional movies will be made.

Video ****

Not only is this the most superb movie of the Jack Ryan Collection, but it is arguably the best transfer of the three new revised discs, and since this movie has less age to it, the results certainly make sense. Given the much needed anamorphic makeover, the movie looks downright better than ever, appearing sharp and crisp for every single moving frame. All of the settings look striking, from Washington to Colombia, etc. Even various sequences that take place in darkly lit areas (such as a scenes in the Colombian jungle) payoff in unexpected ways. Paramount has delivered a terrific looking disc, and certainly one of the best I’ve seen this year.

Audio ****

Likewise comments for the audio job. The 5.1 mix is put to extravagantly terrific use for this action thriller, which carries with it many scenes with DVD potential. There are plentiful scenes of combat, fights, and explosions, all of which deliver the biggest of the boom, but even areas of dialogue delivery and music (a powerful score by veteran maestro James Horner), are delivered in the highest form of audio power as well. Paramount should congratulate themselves on a job well done.

Features **

Like the disc for Patriot Games, the extras department is something of a letdown, as all that is supplied is a well constructed featurette, “Behind the Danger”, and a trailer.


Clear and Present Danger is as explosive a political/high tech thriller as you will come across. For my money, the best of the Jack Ryan adventures, and certainly the best of the new Jack Ryan DVDs.