Clear and Present Danger (1994)
Clear and Present Danger (1994)

Genre: Action and Political Thriller Running Time: 2 hrs. 21 min.

Release Date: August 3rd, 1994 MPAA Rating: PG-13

Director: Phillip Noyce Actors: Harrison Ford, Willem Dafoe, Anne Archer, Henry Czerny, Donald Moffat, Harris Yulin, Benjamin Bratt, Raymond Cruz, Dean Jones, Thora Birch, Ann Magnuson




he third piece to the thrilling Jack Ryan trilogy, “Clear and Present Danger” brings back all the familiar faces and all the unforgettable intrigue. Placing conspiracy and betrayal at the heart of the government (where it’s typical for cinema, and where it believably belongs), Jack Ryan’s ventures this time around are just as intense and twice as complex. A worthy continuation of Tom Clancy’s patriotic hero saga, director Phillip Noyce (who previously helmed “Patriot Games”) doesn’t miss a beat when delivering both labyrinthine mystery and machinegun-powered action.

The Coast Guard recovers a boat stocked with dead bodies, blood, and ties to a Columbian drug cartel. The victims, including a man named Hardin, were personal friends of the President of the United States – a man who, being only human, attempts to reap the kind of vengeance in which collateral damage is inevitable. Unofficially, a group of military specialists, including under-the-table operative John Clark (Willem Dafoe) and covert missions captain Ramirez (Benjamin Bratt) are assigned to quietly assassinate the leaders of the cartel associated with the deaths of Hardin and his family.

As CIA analyst Jack Ryan (Harrison Ford) takes over for Admiral Greer (James Earl Jones) as the Deputy Director of Intelligence, his investigative work begins to uncover the President’s brazen revenge mission. Continued research deciphers that Hardin was laundering money for the Cali Cartel, forcing Ryan to journey to Columbia and into the realm of Felix Cortez (Joaquim de Almeida), an informant who plays both sides for profit and greater power. But as the longtime agent disrupts operations and unearths secrets, it becomes increasingly evident that no one in the U.S. government will respond diplomatically to his controversial findings.

Donald Moffat portrays President Bennett, who is perhaps the only piece of the film that doesn’t feel authentic. His lines sound generic and his actions are detestable – which work perfectly for the type of character he needs to be – but audiences may question his overwhelming control. Examining a darker side to the presidency might just be too uncommon to be convincing. His direct involvement with machinations generally buffered by henchmen is also problematic, pushing the inner workings of human folly into a precariously fictional atmosphere. As U.S. intelligence and the drug cartel advisors each struggle to expose the mastermind, the title becomes somewhat contrary; the danger is present but its source is far from clear.

The premise is a fairly standard backstabbing and covert operations blend, but the details are substantial – even though the twist of the President’s embroilment is revealed to the audience before the characters themselves can sort it out. With its attention to action over drama, “Clear and Present Danger” backs off its intensity from “Patriot Games,” earning it a PG-13 rating while also tacking on nearly half-an-hour more of plotline complexities. An unforgettable ambush on the streets of Bogota (involving a convoy of Suburbans and plenty of bazookas) is the highlight of the film, while an over-the-top yet riveting climax clinches the deal. But even though the production ups the ante on the scope of governmental collusion, it slows in just enough spots to make it marginally inferior to its predecessor. Nevertheless, it’s still an excellent third chapter to the political adventures of Jack Ryan, who, thanks to the first-rate performance by Harrison Ford, remains one of the screen’s greatest protagonists.

– Mike Massie

  • 7/10