The Ryanverse, as Clancy fans call it, is often a little muddled when it comes to the film versions of the books. It is obvious that Hollywood is not going to be able to fit an 800 page book into a two-hour movie. Furthermore, since the movies are contractual agreements, it is hard to keep the same cast and crew from movie to movie. Anyone familiar with the 4 Clancy movies knows that the same character, Jack Ryan, has been played by Alec Baldwin, then Harrison Ford, and most recently by Ben Affleck. This juxtaposition of people and timelines creates a Clancy-esque world that is unique to the movies. If you want to enjoy them at all, don't bother comparing them to the books. A Tom Clancy novel has so much care and detail packed into it that you will want for nothing reading it as a separate story from the movie.
Clear and Present Danger is really the only one of the four that I appreciate besides The Hunt For Red October. CaPD, like HfRO, has a story where much more is going on than is immediately apparent. The Directors in both movies imply much of the story in order to convey Clancy's sense of depth within the limited time-frame. In CaPD the viewer is expected to understand the history of the drug cartels in Colombia, or the myriad of associations and ties the President of the United States keeps around him at all times. How exactly is a covert military operation carried out, and how is it funded? What is the Deputy Director of Intelligence responsible for? People who can answer these questions (and have a good understanding of the Iran-Contra affair) before they view the movie just might appreciate the movie a bit more.
S P O I L E R S F O L L O W
The recurring hero Jack Ryan is again the protagonist, and again he is a somewhat naive, yet extemely sharp and dedicated, political analyst. You wouldn't expect an analyst to get involved in black ops, unless of course the DDI, who happens to be Ryan's mentor, falls gravely ill and asks Ryan to stand in for him. Without a clue what's really going on, Ryan is soon appropriating funds from congress towards the War on Drugs, and also the President's own personal little war with the drug-cartel Ernesto Escobedo (based upon real life cartel leader, Pablo
Escobar). Unbeknownst to the President, his lifelong friend and associate Harden has been laundering money for the cartel while stealing some of it unbeknownst to the cartel. When these facts come to light, Escobedo puts a hit out on Harden, the President retaliates with military force against Escobedo's drug-trade, and then things really start to escalate.
With only implied consent from the President, the National Security Advisor, James Cutter, is running this war through CIA Deputy Director of Operations Robert Ritter. He hires John Clark to lead a special team of commandos through the cartel's backyard in Colombia, basically blowing up anything they see having to do with cocaine. The intrigue is thick when Escobedo's intelligence officer, Felix Cortez, tries to play Escobedo and the CIA against eachother to stage a coup of the entire cocaine cartel industry. He makes a deal with Cutter to trade a regulated drug trade with siginificant reductions in imports in exchange for the soldier's lives. Cutter is only too quick to cut off their com-sat connection.
Of course it is up to Jack Ryan to figure out just how high the conspiracy goes in the US, just who's calling the shots down in Colombia, and to save the American commandos before the field agent Clark can kill him.
A few notes about the special effects scenes of the movie. The explosion of the mansion by the cellulose-encased laser-guided missile was a real one - fullscale. The production company purchased the mansion from a divorcee, laden it with explosives and set a dozen cameras rolling before they took it out. Unfortunately it was constructed nearly entirely of concrete, so the scene in the movie is just a lengthened version of the split second of film they obtained. A cloud of debris engulfed all camera shots shortly after detonation.
The scene where Ryan and friends are ambushed in an alleyway in Columbia while they are driving the white suburbans is actually shot on a specially constructed stage. The scene is actually used as a teaching aid in certain security circles. Ford, long known for doing many of his own stunts, is actually the driver that pulls a cool reverse escape down a side-alley to get the group to safety. The shot is awesome and even cooler for the fact that he's doing the fancy maneuvering.
Harrison Ford - Jack Ryan
Willem Dafoe - John Clark
Anne Archer - Dr. Cathy Muller Ryan
Joaquim de Almeida - Col. Felix Cortez/Roberto Alonzo Landa
Henry Czerny - CIA Deputy Director Robert Ritter
Harris Yulin - National Security Advisor James Cutter
Donald Moffat - President Bennett
Miguel Sandoval - Ernesto Escobeda
Benjamin Bratt - Capt. Ramirez
Raymond Cruz - Domingo 'Ding' Chavez
Dean Jones - Judge Moore
Thora Birch - Sally Ryan
Ann Magnuson - Moira Wolfson
Hope Lange - Sen. Mayo
Tom Tammi - FBI Director Emile Jacobs
Produced by Mace Neufeld and Robert Rehme
Directed by Phillip Noyce
Based on the novel by Tom Clancy
Screenplay by Donald Stewart
Runtime: 141 min; Rated R
behind the scenes footage on DVD