Clear and Present Danger (1994) – Review

4 Stars

Clear and Present Danger is an over-sized gloriously naive (in the wake of 9/11) patriotic fantasy that was topical in its day and has become relevant once again due to today’s drug climate. An American businessman and his family are found slaughtered aboard their yacht in the South Caribbean. Their execution style murder was committed in restitution for stealing from the Colombian drug cartels, in a faulty real estate venture. Turns out this particular American happen to be an alley and close personal friend to the President of the Untied States. Appalled by the video footage captured by coast guards of the horrific crime scene, the POTUS declares the cartels as a clear and present danger to the safety of the Untied States. In secret putting forth a covert military operation to remove assets and take out any hostile presence in Columbia.

After his boss is forced to take a leave of absence due to health reasons, Jack Ryan (Harrison Ford) is appointed acting Deputy Director of the Central Intelligence Agency and assigned to go before the oversight committee, to ask inadvertently for money to fund Operation Reciprocity. Meanwhile an illegal war is being waged against the cartels, and an intelligence officer (Joaquim de Almeida) from deep within the Colombian trade comes forth and proposes a regulated drug market. He plans to cut shipments to America by half and fill monthly arrest quotas to show the press we are winning the war on drugs and drug kingpins. In return we must strand an American special opts team, already inserted deep within the Colombian jungle, without communications or transport-so they may be captured and paraded in front of the people.

As with most Tom Clancy adaptations, Clear and Present Danger is an incredibly dense film, filled with details large and small regarding this covert war. The novel is a bit unwieldy in its length and storytelling, so it’s a remarkable job by the trip of screenwriters Donald Stewart,Steven Zaillian and John Milius that this script is so tightly structured and is able to convey an enormous amount of information in under two 1/2 hours. The centerpiece of the first hour is an incredibly exciting action sequence in which four SUV s’ are attacked by rooftop gunmen with rocket launchers on the back streets of Panama City. The second hour is a mounting set of retaliatory attacks on the US infantry men and the heads of various cartels. This accumulates into an uneasy alliance between the two sides.

Clear and Present Danger is much better than the incredibly dull Patriot Games. Ultimately it comes down to the base story, but even in terms of movie-making-gone is the grimy, washout colors of the last film. This time we are given brightly light scenes with colors that pop-the blue of the sea or green jungle environment. Even director Philip Noyce seems to know that he’s got a juicy tale to share this time around. Beautifully patriotic and rousing score from James Horner, though some interludes too closely ensemble his seminal work on Aliens. Brilliant screenwriting and plotting mixed with a hosts of outstanding performances make this the best screen incarnation of all Tom Clancy’s work.

The last ten minutes are spellbinding, as Jack Ryan ferociously lecturing the President about his decision to strand American soldiers behind enemy lines. It’s a scene that showcases Harrison Ford doing his finest acting. One of the Best movies of 1994.

Director: Phillip Noyce
Stars: Harrison Ford, Willem Dafoe, Joaquim de Almeida

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