Before his death on October 1, Tom Clancy wrote 16 novels in the Jack Ryan/John Clark series between 1984 and 2013. (Command Authority, his last completed novel, is due out this December.)
Due to the complicated ways in which Hollywood makes movies, only four of Clancy’s Jack Ryan books have been adapted for the big screen; Paramount Pictures’ fifth film set in the “Ryan-verse,” Kenneth Brannagh’s upcoming "Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit," is not based on any of the novels. Since 1990, Paramount and producer Mace Neufeld have made the following movies based on Clancy’s canon works:
· "The Hunt for Red October" (1990)
· "Patriot Games" (1992)
· "Clear and Present Danger" (1994)
· "The Sum of All Fears" (2002)
The President: These drug cartels represent a clear and present danger to the national security of the United States.
The third film in the Jack Ryan series, 1994’s "Clear and Present Danger," deals with America's war on drugs and also the abuse of power in high places. As in Clancy's original novel, the plot hinges on one crucial question: how far can a President go to achieve a laudable goal, even if the means cross moral, legal and international boundaries?
The movie begins with a Coast Guard interception of an American-flagged yacht in the Caribbean which results in the arrest of two Colombian sicarios. The hit men, who are known employees of a drug cartel, have murdered the American owner, Peter Hardin, along with his entire family.
The resulting FBI-CIA investigation reveals that Hardin, the late yacht owner and personal friend of the U.S. President (Donald Moffat), had extensive ties to the Cali drug cartel. Hardin, as Jack Ryan (Ford) explains, had been skimming millions from his "partners," thus sealing his fate.
One of the men behind the Hardin hit is Ernesto Escobedo (Miguel Sandoval) a wily and ruthless co-leader of the Cali Cartel. Based on the notorious Pablo Escobar, Escobedo lives a life of luxury in his hacienda while he conducts his illegal drug business. To protect his criminal empire from the Colombian and U.S. governments, Escobedo relies on Felix Cortez (Joaquim de Almeida), a former colonel in Fidel Castro's intelligence service.
In Washington, Ryan is aware that the President is upset that his late friend was a money launderer for the drug lords. However, he is not aware that the National Security Advisor, Admiral James Cutter (Harris Yulin) and his CIA colleague Bob Ritter (Henry Czerny) have been given off-the-record orders to do "something about the drugs pouring into the country." When the President declares to Cutter that the drug cartels pose a "clear and present danger" to the United States, the somewhat slimy admiral and Ritter unleash several covert operations within the sovereign nation of Colombia.
While Ryan does get orders to go to Bogota and find out about Hardin's financial dealings with the Cali Cartel, he is totally unaware that Cutter and Ritter have launched Operation Reciprocity, a clandestine invasion of Colombia by Spanish-speaking special-ops troops. These forces, supervised by ex-CIA field officer John Clark (Willem Dafoe), wreak havoc as they blow up drug labs and smuggling aircraft. Nevertheless, Cutter and Ritter keep Ryan in the dark, and the upright analyst and now acting Deputy Director (Intelligence) unknowingly tells a Senate subcommittee that there are no troop deployments planned for Colombia.
Further complicating Ryan's life is the sudden discovery that his boss and mentor, Admiral James Greer (James Earl Jones), is dying of cancer. Little does he know that his ascent to Greer's job will propel Ryan into a confrontation with Cortez and Escobedo in Colombia.
Even worse, what Ryan uncovers in the process may trigger a Watergate-like constitutional crisis at home.
What makes the Jack Ryan books and movies work is not just the slam-bam action sequences or the glimpses at the mysterious workings of the CIA, but the very notion that a CIA employee can be portrayed as being dedicated, honorable and decent.
In his novels, Clancy clearly desired to show that the agents and analysts who work for the CIA are not the Dark Forces depicted in films such as "Three Days of the Condor" or "Firefox". Nor are they martini-swilling, trigger happy, bed-hopping actiom heroes like James Bond.
In this vein, Harrison Ford plays Jack Ryan as a professional CIA analyst who possesses intelligence, courage, and, above all, integrity.
As in "Patriot Games," Ford also shares a few short yet important scenes with his wife and two children. Anne Archer and Thora Birch return to play Ryan's wife Cathy and daughter Sally, giving Ryan that most un-Bond-like sense of family and a tie to the audience.
Although the screenplay by Donald Stewart, Steven Zaillan, and John (Red Dawn) Millius strips Tom Clancy’s novel to its bare essentials and changes many scenes and situations, Ford's acting and Philip Noyce's able directing makes Clear and Present Danger a top-notch action thriller.
Of course, the novel’s fans will probably find fault with its screen version. As in director Noyce’s Patriot Games, the ending is rendered in a Ryan vs. bad-guys confrontation. In addition, the screenplay ditches many characters and situations that made the novel compelling.
However, it’s important to remember that it’s impossible to create a line-by-line adaptation of any novel, much less a complex one like "Clear and Present Danger," and make a two-hour movie.
Paramount Home Entertainment has released "Clear and Present Danger" in two different DVD versions and a 2008 Blu-ray edition. The original 1998 widescreen DVD is a barebones edition; the only extra feature it offers is the 1994 theatrical trailer.
The 2003 Special Collector’s Edition comes with both the theatrical trailer and a making-of-the-movie featurette, Behind the Danger. This short documentary features interviews with Clear and Present Danger’s cast and crew and reveals some of the details of the film’s production.
The 2008 Blu-ray’s content is identical to that of its 2003 DVD counterpart. The video elements have been digitally remastered to 1080p high definition, and the soundtracks (English, French, and Spanish) are presented in either Dolby TrueHD or Dolby Digital 5.1 sound.