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Clear and Present Danger
Special Collector's Edition

review by Zach B.

 

 

MPAA Rating: PG-13 (For some intense Action/Violence and Language)

Running Time: 141 minutes

Starring: Harrison Ford, Willem Dafoe, Anne Archer and James Earl Jones

Screenplay by: Donald Stewart and Steven Zallian and John Milius
Based on the novel by: Tom Clancy

Directed by: Phillip Noyce

 

Studio: Paramount

Retail Price: $19.99

Features: Behind The Danger featurette, Theatrical Trailer

Specs: 2.35:1 Anamorphic Widescreen, English Dolby Digital 5.1, English DTS 5.1, French Stereo, English Subtitles, Spanish Subtitles, English Closed Captions, Scene Selection (23 Scenes)

Released: May 6th, 2003

 

 

A clear and present danger is forming, and as a result, Jack Ryan (Harrison Ford) is pitted in yet another unique situation while working for the United States. When Admiral James Greer (James Earl Jones) becomes very sick, Ryan is appointed the CIA Deputy Director of Intelligence. When Ryan begins investigating into the death of one of the president's friends, a businessman who has ties to Colombian drug cartels, trouble begins brewing when vital information is kept from him: the CIA has unleashed a gung-ho field operative named Clark (Wilem Dafoe) with forces to go against the Columbian drug lords. Of course, it's up to Ryan to fight for what he believes in and save the day.

Is the third time the charm for the Jack Ryan franchise? I certainly think so. Out of the four Jack Ryan films, I think "Clear and Present Danger" is the best one. It's an entertaining and rather intelligent thrill ride that has it all: action, conflicted characters, great direction, a strong script and great actors. The movie feels pretty assured and confident about what it is doing, and I think that is the key to its success. The stakes seem to be bigger here this time for Ryan (and I'm sure at the time, the filmmakers), and I think that's what ultimately makes this film a success. The way the film engrosses you and sucks you in cannot be denied, not to mention some very cool action sequences and stunt work that doesn't necessarily make the film feel like a guilty pleasure.

The script, credited to a trio of well respected and talented screenwriters (that being of John Milius, Steven Zallian and Ryan mainstay writer Donald Stewart), bring a lot to this installment. I can't compare the script to the Tom Clancy novel because I actually never finished reading it (that was ages ago, and I'm sure I forgot all what I read), but the script creates a very taut and intriguing atmosphere where you constantly want to know what will happen next and when things go down, what the consequences will be. There is a lot of manipulation and backstabbing when it comes to the characters, and that makes some great conflict. The villains are swarmy, the protagonists are heroic and things progress is a careful but forceful balance that cradles between delicate and exciting. The events of the film are natural and the characters are very well developed as we see motives and the reason for motives come in to play. The dialogue is sharp and quite believable. Basically, the characters say things and do things you'd expect them to. Everything links the way they should as well. Very even and very clever adapting overall.

Phillip Noyce, who also directed the first Ryan sequel ("Patriot Games"), does another remarkable and perhaps slightly improved job here. His direction is quite lean and never serves up a dull moment in this film, as each scene is pretty crucial to the characters and overall plot of the movie. Noyce also delivers a remarkable amount of tension between certain characters and the situations characters are pitted in, which I found remarkably appealing. Noyce knows how to direct actors well, stage some great thrilling moments and certainly can create some stunning visual fireworks. The editing in the film is rather seamless and sharp, as Noyce paces the film quite well and makes it feel quite rewarding. The film feels much quicker than over two hours.

The acting is top notch, and certainly blazes things up on screen. Harrison Ford returns to the role of Jack Ryan, and while I think he was great in "Patriot Games," I think he's even better in this one. I don't know if it has anything to do with him getting accustomed to the role or Ryan's situation within the movie, but Ford is simply flawless here. He charges the screen with a blazing intensity when he is called for it, but also, a careful sense of caution when that is called for. Ford perfectly conveys all the emotions Ryan goes through, be it about things going behind his back or his mentor's illness. Ford brings real human feeling once again to the character that is really joyful to watch. Ford once again proves while he is a timeless and remarkable action hero. He shows vulnerability, he shows strength, he believes in the right things and has charisma to spare.

The supporting players in "Clear and Present Danger" are also excellent and play off of Ford quite well. James Earl Jones shines in his small role, Anne Archer as Jack's wife brings a likable simplicity while Harris Yulin, Henry Czerny and Donald Moffat bring distinct intimidation but command the screen in their sly, entertaining roles. You know how you should feel about the characters they help illustrate on screen, but they play the characters so firmly. They don't over do it and it is almost like they have been living the characters for their whole lives. And then of course, we have Wilem Dafoe. The man once again brings his own brand of craziness and scheming to a role, one that is just simply delightful. He can be collectively cool, but also quite sneaky and dangerous. Dafoe once again brings a few chills down the spine, and this is a prime example of his acting work - damn natural and damn good.

"Clear and Present Danger" is at the top of its game when it comes to Hollywood action thrillers. It's not just filled with mindless action, but rather, there is strong concern over the characters and the scenarios presented so there isn't an excuse for all the firepower. The themes and ideals the movie does present are interesting, and there is some gripping intelligence within the characters and plot that is ultimately believable despite some moments that seem far fetched. While I'm not sure I'd label the film a "thinking man's thriller" or anything like that, it's certainly a film where you can expect to be entertained more by the script holds than the violence. The result is a very satisfying, very entertaining and quite memorable film. "Clear and Present Danger" is a must see for anyone who likes a strong film.

 

"Clear and Present Danger" is presented in its original aspect ratio of 2.35:1 widescreen, and it is indeed anamorphic this time around. The image is pretty crisp overall, but it is not without its flaws. The image at times is a bit grainy, there is a strong amount of noise, shimmering is quite apparent and there is also some slight edge enhancment. Edge haloing is also there, and sometimes it's not pretty. There is also some blemishes, scratches and dirt pieces here and there which can be a little distracting. Still, the transfer features some remarkable detail, solid fleshtones and very fitting color saturation that is bold and looks quite nice. Exterior shots really do stand out overall on this transfer - there are some very nifty scenic locations. Overall, another winner from Paramount even if some of the flaws get in the way here and there.

 

Certainly this is a landmark DVD release, as it is one of the first three Paramount titles (the other two being the first two Jack Ryan feature films) to feature a DTS track. Included on this release are English tracks in Dolby Digital 5.1 and DTS 5.1. Both sound pretty terrific, and are probably the best sounding of the Jack Ryan re-releases. Dialogue is firm and centered in both tracks, while the excellent score by James Horner fills the speakers quite boldly and with much power. Surrounds are pretty powerful too, be it when they're strong (such as in the action-packed scenes in Columbia) or subtle (like the ocean waves in the film's opening sequence). Both tracks also feature nice dynamic range and good fidelity. Subwoofer use (especially on the DTS mix) is pretty impressive. I will say that the Dolby Digital mix is a bit more broad, while I feel the DTS track envelopes the action much more sincerely and is slightly more natural in its deliverance. Nonetheless, whatever mix you choose, you won't be disappointed. Also included are English subtitles, Spanish subtitles, English closed captions and a French stereo track.

 

Like the rest of the Jack Ryan re-releases, I'm puzzled why this one also gets the "Special Collector's Edition" status. Is it because it's also a critically acclaimed, box office success? Or does the DTS count for something? Maybe they were trying to keep things consistent with the release of "The Sum Of All Fears"? Anyway, there's not much here (there's been quite a few Paramount titles without that special subtitle that includes more than this DVD). The main thing obviously is the new featurette Behind The Danger. Lasting twenty-six and a half minutes (and nicely presented in 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen!), you get clips from the movie, stills and a lot of behind-the-scenes footage from the film that's pretty cool (and some behind-the-scenes footage of "Patriot Games" at the start to lead us into the focal point of this featurette). Featuring interviews with director Phillip Noyce, producer Mace Neufeld, Harrison Ford, Donald Moffat, Harris Yulin, James Earl Jones, Henry Czerny and Anne Archer, a surprising amount is touched on here. Noyce articulates the film's themes and what inspired the original Tom Clancy novel, while everyone else seems to offer praise for everyone else. The cast and crew also touch upon the film's characters and how the film differs and connects with "Patriot Games" as well. There are also some fun stories here about the production. It seems everyone enjoyed making this film and have mutual admiration for one another.

Also included is the original Theatrical Trailer in English Dolby Surround and non-anamorphic widescreen. On another note, the menus for the movie are quite nifty.

 

Out of all the Jack Ryan films, "Clear and Present Danger" still remains my absolute favorite. It's nice to see Paramount going back into their catalog of older titles and re-releasing them, but in the future, it'd definitely would be nice to see some more supplements for their reissues. Other than that, the retail price is hard to argue with, since you get two great sound mixes and a nice anamorphic transfer for a great movie. If you're a fan of the Jack Ryan films, and happen to old the older version of this, then I still say this it's worth upgrading to.