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Prescient Danger

Given the reference, the title Clear and Present Danger never fell out of style. Although fixated on the Reagan-era drug war, the greater arc is that of accountability – and a check on power. Jack Ryan (Harrison Ford) stands defiant against a corrupt American president who allowed a shadow war to take place under his leadership. That’s American heroism. In 2018, such a check on power seems like fantasy.

Screenwriter John Milius (sharing credit with Donald E. Stewart and Steven Zillian) pens a compelling look at corruption. Where the prior Patriot Games painted a film of American idealism, Clear and Present Danger comes from a place of total pessimism. It’s a twist on formula. Colombian drug lords are cast as villains, but as Ryan unwinds a paper trail, the antagonism is shared. America, poised as the militaristic hero, soon becomes exposed by way of a Constitutional brawl.

Clear and Present Danger depicts an unwell country, willing to bomb children to service their own whims and leave troops to die. For a studio film seeking a mass audience, it’s relentless. Only a bit of smartly placed levity lets the bleak tone break. Ford spouts a handful of one-line gags and when in action, flails his arms like his own Indiana Jones; Ryan’s discomfort with his new gig as Deputy Director happens via dialog as much as it does in the field. He’s a likable hero, important given how voraciously critical the rest of Clear and Present Danger is toward his home government.

Movies tackle government corruption; it’s cinematic comfort food. Seeing bureaucracy fall isn’t unique. Rather, it’s taking a forward facing political propaganda and giving it a cost. Drug dealers bad, American military action good. Clear and Present Danger puts consequences on simplistic thinking. Rather than a “brain on drugs” Saturday morning PSA, there’s legitimate human cost. Those in power exploit positive media coverage, trying to bury the messier underside. Drug dealers bad, but so is unsanctioned action against them.

Unlike Patriot Games, this follow-up doesn’t fall to a phony finish

Although running long (the longest of the Ryan films to date), Ford has the necessary screen presence to carry things. Produced on the brink of the internet’s intelligence makeover, there’s a dated sequence in which Ford hacks into another computer in real time, battling with a government official in a race to secure documents. With convincing edits coupled with Ford’s worried face, the scene still works in spite of the quaint technology.

So too does a midway action scene. An overdose of RPG-sourced fireballs and a slew of gunfire give Clear and Present Danger stakes. It’s busy and loud and theatrical, if no less engaging. Unlike Patriot Games, this follow-up doesn’t fall to a phony finish either. The climax is droll comparatively, but with only a few eye-rolling moments of abysmal shooting.

The real finish though is Ford standing face-to-face with the President in the Oval Office. Ford is asked to comply. With a stern look, Ford says, “I’m sorry Mr. President. I don’t dance.” It’s preposterous but audience-rousing in context, shutting down the office’s assumed power. Too many people now seem to enjoy that dance.


Under the fluorescent lights at Langley, flesh tones take a questionable turn in this Dolby Vision pass. At times, people look outright gray. That’s in contrast to the warmed scenes in Colombia, and natural tones everywhere else. Color thus follows a needed pattern, setting a scene and following wherever the palette goes.

Clear and Present Danger is given a 4K scan, gorgeous for a majority of the runtime. Grain is consistent with the previous two transfers, generally heavy with strong encoding maintaining clarity. Detail runs high, with exquisite texture in close. Exteriors of the CIA building and Colombian homes excel at defining small detail. Vines run up a brick wall of a drug lord’s home, resolution capturing both the plants and bricks in a jaw dropping way.

There’s a shift when Clear and Present Danger moves to the Mexico location shoot. The film stock changes. Grain recedes, and suddenly a slightly glossy, even filtered look takes hold. This doesn’t look amiss – Paramount didn’t digitally alter anything – rather a visible shift in how things were handled behind-the-scenes.

A clean, natural looking HDR makeover accentuates depth. Black levels take their place without crush. Contrast jumps to embolden the sun over the Mexican locales. In the drier palette of Washington, hearty sun drops in through windows, adding dimension to the images.


As with the previous two discs in the Jack Ryan Collection, Paramount pulls over the TrueHD mix from Blu-ray. In this case, that’s okay. Exhibiting boomy dynamic range, the few action scenes finally have appropriate sonic accompaniment. At sea in the opening scenes, boats slam into waves, producing active subwoofer response. Partway through, an RPG strike begin a streak of appealing explosions, if nothing compared to a bombing a little while later. That blast is sensational.

Jungles cast a pleasing layer of ambiance over dialog. Both the front and rear soundstages handle the material equally. On military bases, helicopters take off and fly overhead, transitions between channels flawless. In heavy action, gunfire splits the stereos, falling off into the surrounds with natural positioning. Debris scatters convincingly too. This is a great mix.


The back-of-the-box selling point lists cast & crew interviews. Those are not included anywhere on the actual disc. Consider that a typo. What’s here is the promised Behind the Danger, included only on the Blu-ray. It’s dated from the early part of the DVD era, but tells a decent story over 26-minutes.

Full disclosure: This Blu-ray was provided to us for review. This has not affected the editorial process. For information on how we handle review material, please visit our about us page to learn more.

Clear and Present Danger
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The highlight of the Jack Ryan series, Clear and Present Danger finds modern relevancy through a cynical look at American politics.

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