Clear and Present Danger (1994)

Tom Clancy’s Jack Ryan has had an odd time at the movies. So far 3 actors and as many directors have had a go at him, with varying degrees of success. Hunt for Red October might come up in conversations more often, but it’s hard to get past the silliness of Sean Connery pretending to be Russian (and speaking worse Russian than Baldwin’s American character).

Clear and Present Danger is where your money belongs. One of Clancy’s best Ryan efforts in print, this massive door-stop of a book was condensed by veteran scribes Steven Zallian and John Milius – how’s that for a screen writing combo? – into a script that retains a lot of the original’s moral complexity while making smart concessions to the blockbuster format. For a blockbuster is what you have before you, and one of the smartest ones out there, where art and commerce were combined in perfect harmony.

As Ryan 2.0, Harrison Ford is perfect in the lead, and it’s hard to believe at times, that Clancy didn’t have him in mind when creating the character. With a narrative this fragmented, it is essential that the supporting roles be pitch perfect and across the board everyone does first-rate work, with special mention to Willem Dafoe as John Clarke and Donald Moffat at a devious commander in chief.

Philip Noyce builds on his Ryan-debut Patriot Games and shows he is equally at ease with the quiet parts and the loud ones, particularly an RPG-powered car ambush centerpiece. The action beats are used sparingly but with brilliant precision.

All in all, this is smart, tight, believable and expertly executed. It is that rare brainy “action” film that will involve you and have you hanging on the edge of your seat.

Review by OttoVonB

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