PG-13. It's one of those rare entries in a franchise where the movie preceding this movie is R and the next one is R. I guess Die Hard does the same thing. I'm always the guy who leans into movies being rated lower than higher. It's the most elder millennial thing I do, but I remember the '90s and when everything was PG or PG-13. It's weird that I'm all rah-rah about this staying under the R-line because it's about drugs, executions, murder, snipers, and corruption. I don't want MY kids to watch it. OTHER KIDS should watch it. That makes me a good dad and other parents bad dads...and moms. Regardless, PG-13.
DIRECTOR: Phillip Noyce
I can't help it! His name is Phillip NOYCE! He also directed the previous entry, Patriot Games, so be aware that I will always punctuate his name with an exclamation point. Poor guy. Maybe he got it before the Key & Peele sketch, but I doubt it. Anyway, this was the movie I kept renting over and over at Blockbuster. It made me feel like such an adult renting this film. I just felt like such a grown up. Really, it was because Harrison Ford movies kind of felt like they were extensions of the Indiana Jones franchise. But Clear and Present Danger, despite being one of the better technically crafted entries in the series, doesn't really work with me today like it may have then.
I have to imagine that Clear and Present Danger represents the most distilled Jack Ryan entry in the franchise. For as complex as The Hunt for the Red October was, John McTiernan infused a lot of what made Die Hard such a great movie into it. If there were no other Jack Ryan movies, I would say that The Hunt for the Red October is almost exclusively an action movie. Patriot Games, however, is an intimate thriller. The action is pretty low, with the exception of a rad final act. This is what possibly makes Clear and Present Danger the entry to understand what Jack Ryan is ultimately about. You really don't need to know much about Jack Ryan.
While Patriot Games uncovered what made Jack Ryan tick, Clear and Present Danger uses Jack Ryan as an avatar for hero. We still see his family. Phillip Noyce! brings back his entire family. There are callbacks to Patriot Games and jokes that apparently run between the two movies. But the takeaways for Jack Ryan is that A) he's incredibly good at seeing what other people don't B) he doesn't like holding a gun, but he will defend himself when he needs to and C) he's always going to make the moral choice. That's fun and allows for the film series to be a little bit less invested in the development of the character.
Jack doesn't really have an internal conflict in this one like he does in the other entries in the franchise. There's never really a moment where Jack falls into the world of grey. The movie keeps stressing that the world of politics is not one of black and white, but mired in a world of grey. Heck, the movie actually vocalizes it in the form of dialogue that keeps harkening back to the idea that Jack Ryan doesn't really belong in this world. But there's no Last Temptation of Jack Ryan. Jack, as an outsider (which is really what the character was written to be) easily comments on the evil nature of political intrigue.
This might be why Jack Ryan can't ever really stay in the same status quo (even though he kind of does). The first movie brings in Jack Ryan as a "I don't know how to be a field man" scenario. He keeps commenting that even though he has the training to do the job, he feels really uncomfortable about doing it. Patriot Games brings the violence to him. He's retired from the CIA and is brought back in to protect his family. Instantly, even though he is an expert analyst, he isn't part of his crew. He is able to see the world from an outside perspective. That outsiderness allows him this intelligence that no one else who is too mired in the muck to see. Clear and Present Danger teases the idea that we're finally going to see Jack Ryan in the trenches, doing what he does day-in-and-day-out. But really, the death of Jim Greer elevates him to a new tier where he's granted fish-out-of-water status again. I firmly believe that the reason that the future Jack Ryan vehicles have younger actors is because Jack needs to be the one that no one listens to until it is too late.
It's just that this movie is SO Tom Clancy. It really doesn't matter that it is Jack Ryan. Like a Bond film, this feels like the middle entry for one of the actors. A middle entry isn't necessarily one that is bad. It's just that, as grandiose as some of the moments are in this film, the Harrison Ford Jack Ryan, if there were other movies in this direct line, probably wouldn't be mentioning the consequences of his actions here. The odd thing is that the movie plays it both big and small simultaneously.
Having the villains be the cartel is pretty smart. The antagonist is the other. It's odd to think how different the Wild West of the '90s were politically. We all believed that the War on Drugs was a good thing. It is very bizarre to think of how there is now no good guy in the War on Drugs. It's just bad all around. But Jack Ryan is able to externalize much of the narrative. Most of the movie is Jack hunting down the other guys. The drug cartel killed the friend of the president. Jack has to go to Columbia to fight bad guys. These are bad guys with rocket launchers. It's just that there's a nice thing to make this story kind of matter and that comes in the form of the American soldiers.
Jack Ryan stories have to have a different level. Again, I couldn't care less about Tom Clancy adaptations. I don't really care for Tom Clancy's novels. But Jack Ryan stories really ride the fine line of what makes fun thrillers. It's the stuff that Jack has to bring down that acts in the background of the narrative. The easy story is Jack Ryan versus the Columbian cartel. It's a fun movie that really rides the action movie element hard. Not that there's a ton of action in the movie to really speak about, but it is there in spurts. But knowing that Jack's choices are not only going to humiliate his superiors that should have listened to him from the word go, but also that those same people are also destroying the fabric of America. [mimes puckering lips with a motion that implies that the wine pares perfectly with the meal].
I like this movie, but I don't think I'll ever invest in it enough to get every detail. Tom Clancy's writing often mirrors the stuff I don't really like about certain war movies. Michael Mann has the same problem, but it really gets into the nitty gritty technical stuff that I don't care about. I like a good political intrigue, but I don't need to have all the table talk that is just world building. It makes me a hypocrite because the thing that makes Jack Ryan not a dumb digestable movie is the very thing that makes me roll my eyes when it is happening. Regardless, I own this movie now so who knows what I'll think the next time I see it.
Regardless, Clear and Present Danger is the movie that the franchise needed at the time. Considering that the other entries in the franchise are a little more easy to swallow, the franchise really needed one movie that was as hardcore Tom Clancy as it could get.
Film is great. It can challenge us. It can entertain us. It can puzzle us. It can awaken us.
Mr. H has watched an upsetting amount of movies. They bring him a level of joy that few things have achieved.