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Clear and Present Danger(1994)
Patriotic American Jack Ryan's (Harrison Ford) just been promoted to Deputy Director of Intelligence for the CIA. But before he can adjust to the demands of his position as advisor to the President, Jack's got to investigate a massacre that took the lives of several dignitaries. Probing relentlessly, Jack uncovers the disturbing truth about criminal activities involving an international drug cartel and a close friend of the United States President. Based on Tom Clancy's bestselling novel.
For more about Clear and Present Danger and the Clear and Present Danger Blu-ray release, see Clear and Present Danger Blu-ray Review published by Dustin Somner on October 22, 2009 where this Blu-ray release scored 3.5 out of 5.
Director: Phillip Noyce
Writers: John Bishop (IV), John Milius, Donald E. Stewart, Steven Zaillian
Starring: Harrison Ford, Willem Dafoe, Anne Archer, Joaquim de Almeida, Henry Czerny, Harris Yulin
» See full cast & crew
Clear and Present Danger Blu-ray Review
“How dare you come into this office and bark at me like some little junkyard dog, I am the President of the United States!”
Reviewed by Dustin Somner, October 22, 2009
Following hot on the heels of The Hunt for Red October and Patriot Games, Paramount mined the Tom Clancy library for a second Harrison Ford outing as Jack Ryan. At the time of its release, Clear and Present Danger faced the trilogy curse, which always threatens to dismantle any ongoing film franchise. Luckily, the same cast and crew that made Patriot Games such a successful endeavor, managed to create the same level of filmmaking magic, breathing new life into the ongoing saga of Jack Ryan.
Appointed acting Deputy Director of Intelligence, Jack Ryan (Harrison Ford) is tasked with sweet-talking congress into approving funds to curb drug-running activities in Columbia (after explicitly agreeing the funds would not be used for military operations). Little does he know, the President and his top-level officials have authorized precisely what Ryan promised would not happen, by sending a covert team of the military's finest to retaliate against the cartel lord responsible for the death of the president's long-time friend. The operation is a success at first, but a series of betrayals within the US government and the Columbia cartels result in tragedy. Ryan learns of the shameful acts from the men he once trusted, and begins his own personal crusade to make things right. If there's one person you know not to cross, it's Jack Ryan.
Clear and Present Danger is a difficult film to follow on your first viewing. Cramming 656 pages into a 141 minute film can't be an easy task, and it's clear the three individuals credited with writing the screenplay did their best to keep Clancy's original storyline intact (as a bit of trivia, one of the credited writers is John Millius, the writer/director of Red Dawn and Conan the Barbarian). Now that I've seen the film on more than five occasions, the twists and turns of the plot are much easier to follow, and I feel I'm finally able to focus on more than just the story
As far as political thrillers go, Clear and Present Danger ranks toward the top. Released in the pre-9/11 comfort of the 90's, drug cartels were an easy target for a story of this nature. Add a dose of government corruption, back-room dealings and mafia-style Columbian take-overs; and you have a thoroughly engaging experience on your hands. Unfortunately, the film doesn't hold up as well in comparison with more recent political thrillers. Two that immediately come to mind are Munich and The Good Shepherd, which both deliver a far more memorable experience.
Looking at the pedigree of the primary actors and the ensemble cast, it's clear we're in for a treat. Harrison Ford incorporates naïve innocence in the character of Jack Ryan, but when pushed to the edge, musters incredible intensity. Anyone familiar with the film will surely remember the scene where Ryan confronts the President of the United States and doesn't back down. His reaction to the perceived bribe of power is a testament to Ford's strength as an actor (could you imagine Mathew McConaughey saying "how dare you sir" to the President), and shows he hasn't lost his edge. Aside from Ford, the other stand-out performance worth mentioning is Henry Czerny as Robert Ritter. I know most of you were probably expecting me to mention Willem Dafoe or Joaquim de Almeida, but the reason I've singled out Ritter, is his wonderful ability to leave a lasting impression on the viewer. If every politician was as evil or conniving as Ritter, I'd consider moving to Canada.
Out of the four Jack Ryan films released thus far, Clear and Present Danger ranks third on my list, directly behind The Hunt for Red October and Patriot Games. The first Jack Ryan film is a given, but Patriot Games barely edges out this offering with a more simplistic structure that's easy to associate with. I'm not saying I avoid films that require the viewer to use their brain, but there's a certain point when you have to realize most casual film-goers have limits on what they can soak up in one viewing. Needless to say, if you haven't watched Clear and Present Danger up until now, find someone to enjoy it with you.
Clear and Present Danger Blu-ray, Video Quality
Presented in 1080p utilizing the AVC codec (at a healthy bitrate of 33Mbps), Clear and Present Danger exhibits a strong visual presentation, despite some minor transfer-related deficiencies. Fine-object detail exceeded my expectations for a film of this age, but I'm afraid the engineers at Paramount went a little overboard with their application of DNR. We all know grain was heavily-utilized in films of the mid 1990's, yet it seems to be non-existent in surface of this transfer. The downside of this "clean-up" work, is a noticeable loss of the finest facial textures. You'll still notice age lines in Harrison Ford's face, but the more intricate blemishes, marks and facial hairs are completely smoothed over. Despite issues with facial textures and fabrics, the rest of the transfer is highly detailed, with clean lines and easily identifiable lettering on signs or computer screens. The coloring of the film also shows a dramatic improvement from the drab spectrum of the DVD, and contrast/black levels create a superior differentiation in shades, affording the picture a three-dimensional depth that would have been impossible on DVD. Sadly, I have one other minor complaint that appears from time to time. I thought the days of edge-enhancement were behind us (this is "high-definition" after all), but you'll notice occasional halos around several bold edges during the film. A great example is at the 40:20 mark, when Jack Ryan's plane descends to the airport. Look at the mountain in the background, and you'll notice a second outline along the edge of the peaks.
In the end, the film still delivers a beautiful presentation that shouldn't bother 95% of viewers. However, if you're watching it projected onto a 100 inch screen, some noticeable flaws will begin to emerge.
Clear and Present Danger Blu-ray, Audio Quality
Paramount did us a huge favor by incorporating a lossless audio track on this Blu-ray release. I don't have the prior DVD version to conduct a comparison, but it's not difficult to assume this is a far superior track in every way. The most profound change is the increase in clarity, since we're no longer forced to deal with extensive compression. Listening to the dialogue or focusing on the sound effects, every subtle nuance in the track is well-defined, without a hint of muffling. Surround use is just as proficient, creating a level of immersion that serves to enhance the overall experience. As most fans know, the highlight action scene takes place in a thin alleyway, where the good guys come under fire by guerillas soldiers with rocket launchers. Flying debris can be heard as it ricochets around the room, bouncing from speaker to speaker in unison with the explosions. Couple those surround effects with screeching tires, the patter of footsteps, and the yells of the men under fire, and you literally feel as if you're right in the middle of the caravan. Unfortunately, watching that scene also revealed one of the film's only deficiencies, in the form of lackluster bass. Explosions seldom occur, but when they do happen, there's a dismal lack of subwoofer use. Aside from that one problem, I was quite pleased with the proficiency of the audio experience.
As a side note, Clear and Present Danger was nominated for the Academy Award in Best Sound Editing and Best Sound.
Clear and Present Danger Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
Behind the Danger (480p, Dolby Digital 2.0, 26:34 min): This is a fairly mundane behind-the-scenes glimpse at the film. The interviews with director Phillip Noyce and the main cast focus heavily on delivering praise to one another, rather than digging into the history of the production, problems on the set, or Clancy's original novel. I doubt I'll ever revisit this supplement in the future.
The only other extra included on the disc is a high-definition theatrical trailer with 2-channel audio.
Clear and Present Danger Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
Clear and Present Danger is an entertaining film that tries its best to lose viewers within the first half hour. Despite the complexities of the plot, I've found the film to be a touch on the shallow side, as I'm asked to wade through the occasionally outrageous twists in the plot and the conventional drug-cartel villains. That's not to say I don't have a positive view of the film, but when you consider the best political thrillers in the genre, this Jack Ryan entry seems a bit on the average side. From a technical standpoint, this is huge step in the right direction, but some minor missteps in the transfer make it difficult to give the release a whole-hearted recommendation. If you consider yourself a Tom Clancy fan and are able to find the disc for a reasonable price, I'd imagine this will be a worthwhile purchase.
Clear and Present Danger: Other Editions
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