'Clear and Present Danger': THR's 1994 Review

Clear and Present Danger - H - 1994
A spit-polish, fast-moving action-thriller, retaining Clancy's intricate plotting but throwing overboard his turgid techno-prose.

On Aug. 3, 1994, Paramount Pictures unveiled the Harrison Ford starrer Clear and Present Danger in theaters, where it would go on to gross more than $215 million worldwide. The Hollywood Reporter's original review of the Tom Clancy adaptation is below:

Once again Harrison Ford plays a doctor caught between a rock and a hard place. This summer he's not Dr. Richard Kimble, but once again he's Dr. Jack Ryan, U.S. Navy, and he's thrust smack-dab into the middle of the covert battle between the White House and Colombian drug cartels. It's Ford's rock-solid presence and flinty honor as quintessential American Jack Ryan that will generate blockbuster waves from this big vessel from Paramount.

The third in the fleet of Tom Clancy bestsellers brought to the screen by producers Mace Neufeld and Robert Rehme, Clear And Present Danger is a spit-polish, fast-moving action-thriller, retaining Clancy's intricate plotting but throwing overboard his turgid techno-prose.

In this post Cold War-scenario, Ryan is promoted to interim deputy director of intelligence for the CIA as a result of his superior's (James Earl Jones) ill health. Determined to keep a low profile and guard his flank, Ryan is nevertheless catapulted unsuspectingly into the midst of a clandestine war between the White House and the Colombian drug thugs. Honorable and decent Ryan soon finds himself holding the bag for a covert-action team that's waging a deadly guerrilla war in the jungles of Colombia. No mere desk jockey, he's soon on a plane to Bogota and man-on-man in the combat.

Charting an even balance between action and emotion, the screenwriting platoon (Donald Stewart, Steven Zaillian, John Milius) have skillfully crafted a big-screen actioner that is propelled not only by a cataclysmic and dangerous national situation but, perhaps more movingly, by one man's strong sense of ethics. Indeed, as embodied by Ford, the Jack Ryan character is the epitome of honor, loyalty and bravery. That he's also a bit squirrely makes him wonderfully identifiable and the best kind of hero to root for, especially when he utters what may be the summer's best line — "I don't dance."

While Ford's marvelously forged portrayal of "Boy Scout" Jack Ryan is the film's centerpiece, the other players also win stripes, especially Joaquim de Almeida as the slithery counsel to a drug lord and Willem DaFoe as a steely CIA field op. Donald Moffat is superb as a president who masks his ferocity with scatterbrained folksiness.

Phillip Noyce's even-keeled direction is distinguished by his expert marshaling of the film's technical crew. Of highest rank, composer James Horner's score is aptly majestic and lean, while Neil Travis' crisp-cadence editing gives it just the right dramatic thrust. — Duane Byrge, originally published on Aug. 1, 1994.