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MOVIE INFO
Synopsis:
Harrison Ford returns as intrepid CIA agent Jack Ryan. When his mentor Admiral James Greer becomes gravely ill, Ryan is appointed acting CIA Deputy Director of Intelligence. His first assignment: investigate the murder of one of the President's friends, a prominent U.S. businessman with secret ties to Colombian drug cartels. Unbeknownst to Ryan, the CIA has already dispatched a deadly operative to lead a paramilitary force against the Colombian drug lords. Caught in the crossfire, Ryan takes matters into his own hands, risking his career and life for the only cause he still believes in--the truth.

Director:
Phillip Noyce
Cast:
Harrison Ford, Willem Dafoe, Anne Archer, Joaquim de Almeida, Henry Czerny, Harris Yulin, Donald Moffat, Miguel Sandoval, Benjamin Bratt
Writing Credits:
Donald Stewart, Steven Zaillian, John Milius, based on the novel by Tom Clancy

Tagline:
Truth needs a soldier.
Box Office:
Budget $65 million.
Domestic gross $122.012 million.
MPAA:
Rated PG-13.

DVD DETAILS
Presentation:
Widescreen 2.35:1/16x9
Audio:
English Dolby Digital 5.1
English DTS 5.1
French Dolby Surround
Subtitles:
English, Spanish
Closed-captioned

Runtime: 141 min.
Price: $19.99
Release Date: 5/6/2003

Bonus:
• “Behind the Danger” Documentary
• Theatrical Trailer


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RELATED REVIEWS


Clear and Present Danger: Collector's Edition (1994)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (April 29, 2003)

Tom Clancy's work never did a whole lot for me. Whether in his books or in the movie adaptations, I found his work to be rather dry and less than exciting; Clancy's love affair with political and technical details tended to go overboard and bog down the storylines. While his work could be fairly interesting and stimulating, I always felt that with a little more streamlining, his stories might have been much more provocative.

I finally found Clancy I could love with the film adaptation of 1994's Clear and Present Danger. After two entertaining but not exceptional forays into movies with 1990's The Hunt For Red October and 1992's Patriot Games, the Jack Ryan series hit its stride with this terrific picture.

At the start of the film, we see the Coast Guard as they stop a yacht in the south Caribbean. When they board the craft, they discover some slain inhabitants. One of them named Peter Hardin had important friends, including the US President Bennett (Donald Moffat). When he learns of the killings, he demands reprisals against the South American drug cartels that caused these problems.

CIA consultant Jack Ryan (Harrison Ford) sits in on a meeting to discuss this issue, and he takes on a more important role when his boss Admiral Greer (James Earl Jones) becomes seriously ill. Ryan takes over the position as Acting Deputy Director of Intelligence, which means he’ll need to work with National Security Adviser James Cutter (Harris Yulin) and Deputy Director of Operations Robert Ritter (Henry Czerny), neither of whom welcome the presence of this “boy scout” since they need to get down and dirty to follow the president’s orders.

In the meantime, we meet the other side in Colombia. We encounter drug lord Ernesto Escobedo (Miguel Sandoval) and his counsel Felix Cortez (Joaquim de Almeida). Escobedo enacted the slaughter of Hardin and his family, but Cortez objects to that form of business. Ritter heads to Panama City, where he meets with an agent named Clark (Willem Dafoe). Ritter hires Clark to run the unauthorized enterprise against the drug cartels, and we soon see Clark as he recruits soldiers.

Cortez’s plot thickens as he comes to Washington DC and enjoys an ongoing affair with Moira Wolfson (Ann Mangnuson). A distant friend of Jack’s and his wife Cathy (Anne Archer), Moira works as the assistant to FBI director Emile Jacobs (Tom Tammi); we quickly deduce that Cortez – who calls himself Roberto Landa with her – is using Moira for information about the government.

Some think the attack on the yacht occurred solely due to piracy, but Jack suspects something more substantial, and he attempts to establish if Hardin was involved in dirty business. He soon discovers that this was the case, and Hardin left behind $650 million in an offshore account. However, Ryan only theorizes that this money came from drugs, so the president sends him to Colombia to find the connection.

Clark’s endeavor causes damage to Escobedo’s operation, as the soldiers destroy his transport planes and processing plants. Clark and Ryan briefly meet through their connection with Greer, and out of respect for the ill admiral, Clark sends him toward Escobedo. When the Colombian government learns of Hardin’s drug money, they want a big cut, but the president is determined to keep it all for the US. He sends FBI director Jacobs to Colombia to negotiate this.

Escobedo fumes when he sees the president’s determination to keep what the drug lord regards as his money, and this seems to set up a climactic attack. Forces converge on Jacobs’ motorcade in Colombia, and this causes the president to authorize even more force against the drug runners. Eventually Ryan starts to sniff dirty dealings by his own government as well as Escobedo, Cortez and others. The rest of the movie follows his attempt to find the truth and set things right.

Clear and Present Danger manages to have its cake and eat it too by combining the intricate technical world of Clancy with more action and excitement than previously depicted. Make no mistake - this isn't an all-out action-fest, as it still spends a lot of its time in the realm of political intrigue. However, it peppers that standard Clancy fare with some terrific action sequences.

Really, for the first hour or so, Clear and Present Danger follows a fairly standard course for Clancy stories. It seems fairly interesting and maintains your attention, but it largely covers expository material. Since Clancy's works tend to feature complicated plots and lots of characters, it took about an hour for all of the roles and settings to become established.

For my money, Clear and Present Danger really starts to take off as we approach the halfway mark. At that point, the film moves into another gear when we see the assault on the FBI director’s motorcade. Director Phillip Noyce paces the scene beautifully as we slowly see the attackers take their places before all hell breaks loose. The segment possesses a tremendous impact, both viscerally and emotionally, and it sets the tone for the rest of the film. The experience seems to change Ryan, who goes from sideline advisor to more active participant.

All this makes for a very exciting and fairly moving action film. I found the whole experience to be quite a big comeback after the occasionally dull Patriot Games. Director Noyce shows a lot more flair behind the camera this time around, and the film moves along at a pretty good pace, especially for a relatively long picture. He handles the action sequences with substantially more flair, and even though Danger lasts 25 minutes longer than Games, it progresses so nicely that it actually seems shorter.

As usual, Harrison Ford does fine work in the role of Jack Ryan. Okay, I'm clearly in the bag for Ford, but truthfully, does the guy ever do any honestly bad work? He's made far fewer clunkers than pretty much any other actor with as extensive a résumé, and even when the film stinks, he generally manages to come through it without embarrassing himself. Harrison Ford's name on the marquee pretty much guarantees good work, and Clear and Present Danger provides no exception.

The supporting cast also seems top-notch. Henry Czerny probably offers the biggest standout as weaselly bureaucrat Robert Ritter. Czerny plays the role with just the right level of sliminess; he makes sure we see the character for what he is, but he never goes over the top and creates a cartoon villain. I also like Joaquim de Almeida as shady drug advisor Felix Cortez; he seems just slick enough to pull off his plans. Unfortunately, he wasn't exactly the physical type the filmmakers would like us to believe he is; while the script often calls him a "Latin Jack Ryan," he looks a lot more like a Latin Phil Hartman.

All four movies based on Tom Clancy novels work reasonably well, but Clear and Present Danger remains the series’ strongest effort. It meshes Clancy’s intricate plots and complicated intrigue with a positive sense of action and panache largely absent from the others. It seems exciting, moving and neatly paced, and Danger provides a fine piece of work.

Personal footnote: if you visit the 1:04:21 mark with the party at Escobedo’s estate, you’ll get a quick glimpse of my current girlfriend. As the camera pans at the start of the scene, she shows up in the lower right-hand corner. She stands at the right in a group of three women and wears a dark green dress suit. She’s blurry but she’s mine!


The DVD Grades: Picture A-/ Audio A-/ Bonus C

Clear and Present Danger appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 2.35:1 on this single-sided, double-layered DVD; the image has been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. The final element of the three reissued Jack Ryan films, Danger also came with a new transfer that updates the old non-anamorphic DVD from 1998. While I had some reservations about the reissue of Red October, I felt fewer concerns in regard to the new Danger. Though not flawless, this re-release thoroughly trounces the image of the prior disc.

With only a few small exceptions, sharpness looked fine. The occasional wide shot displayed a little softness, but those examples occurred infrequently. Otherwise, the movie remained detailed and distinctive. Unlike the earlier DVD, this Danger suffered from no examples of jagged edges or moiré effects, and it also cut down on the edge enhancement; I noticed one or two shots with some light haloes, but these seemed minor and didn’t harm the overall presentation. Flaws also diminished substantially from the 1998 DVD. The new one showed a little light grain at times, but otherwise it came across as clean and smooth, with none of the specks or marks that marred the other disc. It also lacked the weird “warping” that showed up when the camera panned shots in the Oval Office.

The prior release displayed muted tones and looked like a filmy coating covered it much of the time. The new one showed none of those concerns, as it demonstrated dynamic and vivacious colors. The hues were concise and vivid, and they really came across well at times. The golden tone given to the sunlight scenes in Colombia looked particularly excellent. Black levels remained deep and rich, which shadow detail improved. Again, the loss of the dull sheen helped there, as low-light shots seemed more distinctive and visible. Ultimately, the new image of Clear and Present Danger appeared totally superior to that of the earlier DVD. With or without comparisons, the picture earned an “A-“; the smattering of minor flaws almost knocked my grade down to a “B+”, but so much of the movie looked spectacular that I felt it deserved the higher mark.

Whereas the 2003 DVD provided vastly superior visuals, the audio remained about the same since Clear and Present Danger always sounded great. One change did occur in that domain, however. As with the other two reissued Jack Ryan movies, Danger added a DTS 5.1 soundtrack in addition to the original Dolby Digital 5.1. While I thought the DTS mix on Patriot Games slightly outdid the Dolby one, Danger returned to a level of equality. I didn’t hear any significant differences between the two soundtracks on this DVD.

Again, given the strength of the original mix, I didn’t mind. The movie presented a stellar soundfield throughout the movie. The louder scenes benefited the most, of course, as the various action sequences presented excellent use of all five channels. For example, the motorcade assault really took great advantage of the various speakers; bullets and vehicles moved efficiently and accurately all around the room, and everything remained logically placed. Quieter scenes also demonstrated a strong feeling of environment, and helped place us in the moment well. Even something as simple as a room filled with computer operators gave us a good sense of atmosphere.

Audio quality mostly appeared excellent, with only some small exceptions. Actually, I only detected one occasional exception, and it related to speech. At times dialogue came across as mildly stiff, but that didn’t occur frequently. For the most part, the lines seemed distinct and natural. Music appeared vibrant and dynamic, with bright highs and rich bass. Effects stole the show as expected. Those elements sounded vivid and robust, and they packed a nice punch. Low-end response was consistently terrific, as bass appeared loud and clear. The audio of Clear and Present Danger nicely complemented the action and helped make the movie more satisfying.

While the special edition of Clear and Present Danger offers more supplements than we found on the old disc, don’t expect much. In addition to the film’s trailer - presented non-anamorphic 1.85:1 with Dolby 2.0 audio – we get nothing more than a new documentary called Behind the Danger. This 26-minute and 32-second program strongly resembles similar pieces found on the first two Jack Ryan DVDs, though it includes more footage from the set than previously seen. In addition to those elements, it presents some movie snippets and modern interviews with producer Mace Neufeld, director Phillip Noyce, and actors Harrison Ford, Donald Moffat, Harris Yulin, Ann Magnuson, James Earl Jones, Henry Czerny, Anne Archer, Miguel Sandoval, and Joaquim de Almeida.

This program talks about the producer’s desire to keep the party going after everyone enjoyed making Patriot Games and then goes over subjects such as Noyce’s influence on the set, the film’s expansion of the Ryan character, the relationship between Greer and Ryan, the development – or lack thereof – accorded the character of Cathy, casting the new actors, creating the computer duel and motorcade assassination sequences, and the destruction of a house. This program indulges in more happy talk than the other two; much of the time we hear little more than how wonderful everyone is. However, it includes some good information about the technical topics, and the inclusion of some animated storyboards for the motorcade scene provides a cool look at those techniques. “Danger” is a fairly average documentary as a whole, though.

Probably the best of the Jack Ryan flicks, Clear and Present Danger offers a satisfying action flick that consistently fires on all cylinders. Boasting a solid cast and some excellent action pieces, the movie seems exciting and dramatic. The DVD provides very strong picture and sound, but it lacks much in the way of extras; only a decent but unexceptional documentary gives us any substantive information.

Although the absence of many new supplements comes as a disappointment, I still have to recommend Clear and Present Danger for anyone interested in the film. It’s definitely the superior product of the two DVD versions, and the combination of fairly low list price and significantly improved picture quality make it easily worth an upgrade for owners of the old disc.

Viewer Film Ratings: 4.3913 Stars Number of Votes: 23
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