The Birthday Series – Clear and Present Danger (1994)

Droids Birthday Series 1994 I’m counting down to my birthday by reviewing a movie each year that was released on or around August 2nd. Here’s 1994’s entry.

Clear And Present Danger Poster How do you keep a series fresh? Usually it’s a case of diminishing returns, especially after the first sequel. In the case of the Jack Ryan series they had the benefit of a series of books by Tom Clancy to base their films on. And despite three different actors portraying Ryan in four films, each film has substantial merit. ‘Clear and Present Danger’ ranks second in my estimations, behind the excellent ‘The Hunt for Red October’.

Clear and Present Danger 6 Jack Ryan (Harrison Ford) is the Acting Deputy Director of the CIA, replacing his close friend James Greer (James Earl Jones), who is terminally ill. When a yacht is seized by the US Coastguard, they discover evidence of the murder of a close friend and campaign contributor of the United States President Bennett (Donald Moffat). In his investigation, Ryan concludes that the murders were resulting from the victim swindling the powerful Colombian drug lord Ernesto Escobedo (Miguel Sandoval). Hush hush government retaliation comes about in the form of a covert operation led by John Clark (Willem Dafoe). Meanwhile, Escobedo’s right hand man and chief intelligence officer Felix Cortez (Joaquim de Almeida) uses the situation to his advantage, and attempts to take over the Columbian drug trade.

Clear and Present Danger 3 As you can probably tell, that plot description is fairly convoluted. And that’s just the start of it. ‘Clear and Present Danger’ challenges you to keep up. It’s a pretty complicated story, full of political intrigue, techno babble and some pretty nifty action set pieces to boot. Whereas Harrison Fords previous adventure as Jack Ryan essentially boiled down to a revenge film, this one broadens the scope and has him attempting to unravel a plot that takes him right to the top.

Clear and Present Danger 5 This is probably my third favourite Harrison Ford role, behind (of course) Indy and Han. He’s the “boy scout” who will do whatever he must for good. When accused of seeing everything is black and white, he carefully explains (by yelling and gesturing wildly) “Not black and white. Right and wrong!” His moral compas is spelled out in a wonderful scene with James Earl Jones. Ryan took an oath, not to the President, but to the people. Cue the square jaw heroics. All the actors are excellent, in particular the snakelike Henry Czerny, Earl Jones and de Almeida. And Willem Defoe, who I’m so used to seeing give oddball performances, is terrific as John Clark, the covert agent who gets sold up the river.

Clear and Present Danger 7 Credit must be given to Donald Stewart, Steven Zaillian and John Millius for streamlining Tom Clancy’s yawn inducing novel into an exciting action adventure. I’ve tried to read a couple of Clancy’s books and after about 100 pages my eyes glaze over and I can’t take it anymore. It’s a shame, because the stories are terrific, it’s just the pouring over every minute detail that does my head in.

Clear and Present Danger 8 Philip Noyce is really great at this type of film. He handles the multilayered, complex story with total confidence, and ramps up the tension during the action set pieces. One of the highlights of the film is the scene where Ryan and Ritter (Czerny) go tête à tête over some computer files. It’s as good as an action scene, with Noyce building tension by intercutting Ryan trying to gather evidence of Ritter’s involvement by remotely accessing his computer, while Ritter is simultaneously trying to delete all evidence. It’s probably my favourite scene of the film. And then there’s the action set piece, where Ryans convoy gets ambushed. This scene is apparently lauded for it’s accuracy in how to escape such an attack, but whatever the case, it’s a brilliant, nail-biting piece of cinema.

Clear and Present Danger 9 The one aspect of ‘Clear and Present Danger’ that mildly irks me is the use of original language. This is not a new or surprising thing, and being an American film made primarily for English speaking audiences, I can understand it. But it would have lent the film that extra authenticity if the scenes set in Columbia, featuring native Colombians and South Americans, were spoken in Spanish. It’s a minor complaint, but I feel it would’ve helped the film if it had been so.

Clear and Present Danger 1 Even though ‘Clear and Present Danger’ was only made 16 years ago, it’s one of those films that Hollywood don’t seem to make anymore. A film with a multi-layered, challenging story, that expects your attention. The plots of so many action films these days can be described in just one or two short sentences. But this film is bursting with intriguing developments, wonderful character moments and terrific action. I wish Hollywood would make them like they used to.


Thanks for coming to my 1994 birthday. Adios!


For Droids a jolly good fellow!

2009 – The Collector

2008 – The Midnight Meat Train

2007 – Hot Rod

2006 – Bon Cop Bad Cop

2005 – The Dukes of Hazzard

2004 – The Manchurian Candidate

2003 – Gigli

2002 – Signs

2001 – Rush Hour 2

2000 – Hollow Man

1999 – The Iron Giant

1998 – BASEketball

1997 – In The Company of Men

1996 – Chain Reaction

1995 – Babe


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About Judge Droid

In between refining my procrastination skills I talk a lot of shit about movies and such.

39 responses to “The Birthday Series – Clear and Present Danger (1994)”

  1. Tom_Bando says :

    That’s NOT James Cromwell as the Prezzie, is it? I always thought it was. Hmmmm. Anyways, this is a GOOD movie, Droid. I wish Ford had made some more of these.

  2. MORBIUS says :

    Back in the day, when Ford didn’t just phone it in.

  3. Droid says :

    Looking at Fords career since this, the only movie he’s made that I consider great is K19. Everything else ranges between average (Hollywood Homicide; Indy 4) and utter garbage (Air Force One; Firewall).

  4. Tom_Bando says :

    Oh Air Force One is fun. I like that. He’s def. made garbage.

  5. Jarv says :

    I actually don’t like this film. It bores me, and I struggle to remember anything about it other than the ambush.

    Reading your review, I should like it, but I just don’t.

  6. just pillow talk says :

    I love this film, and almost prefer it to Red October because Connery annoys me. It does make me sad that this Ford did disappear.

    I also like the scene where Ryan and Felix are trying to determine what made that blast hole by different methods.

  7. just pillow talk says :

    I never saw K-19. Doesn’t Ford specialize in some really bad accents in that one?

    • Droid says :

      It’s strange to be seeing Ford attempting an accent, but you get used to it. It’s a tough film to watch. I’ve only seen it once. It’s great though.

  8. koutchboom says :

    I prefer the use of the action scenes from this movie in the show Jag then the actual movie.

  9. koutchboom says :

    Oh yeah this is Phillip Noyce, mother fucker is still kicking. Who’s seeing Salt????? Yeah didn’t think so.

    • koutchboom says :

      Seriously, did any of you even realize Salt comes out this week? It feels like I’ve already seen it or it’s a direct to dvd film.

      • koutchboom says :

        Oh yeah Kurt Wimmer wrote it I keep forgetting that. That means it’ll at least be a rental.

      • koutchboom says :


        It’s exciting and full of smarts and style. Plus it’s got Jolie. This thing rocks.

        Pete Hammond
        Boxoffice Magazine !!!! Dude is AWESOME!

    • Droid says :

      I forgot about it. I might see it when it comes out here. Depends on the reviews.

  10. koutchboom says :

    A film with a multi-layered, challenging story, that expects your attention.

    Its funny you say that right after you were knob slobbing all over Inception. I’d say Inception its a throw back to hollywood story telling with modern day techniques for filming and editing. Also movies like Edge of Darkness and Book of Eli.

    • Droid says :

      Edge of Darkness is a throwback to the forgettable 80’s revenge thrillers.

      What era of films is Inception a throwback to?

      • koutchboom says :

        You need a fucking kick up the ass for being a bitch, cunt, gold digging whore! Edge of Darkness is awesome, grow a pair and accept it.

        As for Inception I was saying that it is a multi layered action movie in which you have to pay attention to understand why the zero-G stuff didn’t go from one dream world to the next.

    • Droid says :

      EoD is awesomely mundane, hu hum and run of the mill.

      • koutchboom says :

        What are you a fucking expert? Fuck off.

      • koutchboom says :

        Speaking of Inception. I got the soundtrack last night but didn’t bring my I Zune to work. I remember their being a score, but it was just sort of mood music no real clear theme, and it all sucked compared to that ball tingling track from the trailer.

      • Droid says :

        I’m an armchair expert.

  11. just pillow talk says :

    Edge of Darkness was an okay movie. Best part of that movie: Ray Winstone’s scene at the end with the Senator and the other government types.

    • koutchboom says :

      I liked the whole thing, the look of it all very smooth and slick. Also I think Mel’s acting was great, probably one of his best. There is a lot more to it then just basic revenge thriller, I say it’s a modern day noir sort of film but I won’t because I know noir has been dead since chinatown. But it’s close I just liked the way it played out, it was expertly done. I mean people bitched about how unoriginal it was, but we haven’t seen a good revenge thriller in some time so who cares? It’s not like 15 came out in the past year or two, like shit like Ironman 2 and that movie got a pass from most people.

      Also Sherlock Holmes. Between Holmes/Eli/Darkness its a great time for adult action films at the cinema.

      • Droid says :

        It’s not noir. It’s a bog standard revenge film. Get over it.

      • koutchboom says :

        Yeah but jump scare tactics The Square is noir to the core. OK.

      • just pillow talk says :

        True, Mel didn’t phone it in like say Ford does now.

        And it was enjoyable enough while I watched it, but it’s by no means a memorable movie. And like any movie, it doesn’t have to be an original idea, it’s all about the execution of said idea.

        But out of the last dozen movies I saw, I liked Elite Squad, Daybreakers, and The Host a lot better.

        Though it’s a toss up between Edge of Darkness and The Manchurian Candidate remake.

        I liked Sherlock Holmes too, but mainly for the interaction between Jude and RDJ.

      • koutchboom says :

        I really liked Daybreakers but some of the acting in that thing was awful, Willem and Sam barely got by just on their names alone in that thing. But whoever that was playing Hawks brother, lets hope that the Kiwi actor stays there and that the Aussie actress in the lead doesn’t have Droid sense of shame and never leaves her homeland.

        I think Mel’s performeance in Edge was very good. Probably the best this year so far. I can’t think of any other male lead performeance that has been that good this year. It’s just a solid fucking movie what more can you ask for. Campbell and Mel made a great team, don’t know why I ever doubted it Campbell is one of the best directors working right now. It’s odd because before Edge I really didn’t give a shit about Green Lantern, but now I’ve got high expectations. Campbell has never really delt in the fantastical like that so it is going to be interesting. I think it’s going to be Epic, I hope it shits all over that garbage Ironman. Seriously the more I think about it the more I realize that Ironman 2 is the worst comic book movie ever made.

      • Droid says :

        Jump scare tactics!? HA! Oh, you mean all the ones in Edge of Darkness. Yeah, that movie did have a lot of them. Not much else, but a lot of “jump scares”.

      • Droid says :

        Manchurian Candidate remake is much better than EoD.

        EoD’s a solid 2 1/2 chang film. Decent, seen it all before entertainment. Payback is better.

      • just pillow talk says :

        Nah, not for me. I consider them pretty equal in quality.

  12. just pillow talk says :

    Bah…best revenge flick that recently came out: Taken.

    • Droid says :

      Yeah, Taken was much better than EoD. I also think Death Sentence was better. But The Brave One was shit.

      • just pillow talk says :

        Oh yeah, Death Sentence too. How could I forget that one. Bacon was excellent in it.

      • koutchboom says :

        See I don’t even put Edge down there with Taken and Death Sentence. Those movies were obviously by the book revenge thrillers. There is a lot more to Edge of Darkness, it has a much more emotional core then either of those films. There is detective work in Edge, the whole cat and mouse between Mel and Houston. With Taken and Death Sentence, it’s like a video game. The main character plodding along till he reaches the main bad guy, sure Taken was fun (for the life of me I don’t recall much about Death Sentence I remember liking a few parts but not the movie as a whole) but Taken was cheesy as shit. It was like an old man Tony Jaa movie, who gives a shit what the plot is you just wanna see old man Liam kick some ass. With Edge you wanted Mel to reveage his daughter and figure out what the fuck is going on, there is a real sense of paranoia throughout Edge that I haven’t felt from a movie in a while.

      • Droid says :

        Out of the three films, and the three main characters, I cared the least for Mel. His relationship with his daughter wasn’t developed at all, so they try this manipulative “little girl” visions shit. Out of the three I actually felt the most for Bacons character in Death Sentence.

      • just pillow talk says :

        Hmm…it didn’t have more emotional core for me. I think Death Sentence did actually, the way they went after him and he had to watch his wife die and what he thought was his second son dying as well.

        And then he’s sitting there at the end bleeding away at the neck thinking he lost his entire family, and his son comes out of the coma.

        Sure, Edge of Darkness had some conspiracy going on as well, and Mel claimed he was after the bigger picture. But the reality was he wanted revenge, hence the reason why he gunned down everyone. Yeah, he sent that cd I think it was to the reporter, but he still brought down everyone to his ‘justice’.

        I still like Ray’s scene at the end though, where they all think he’s lost it and then he just starts putting bullets in everyone.

        Taken is very simple, but once he goes over and starts knocking off dudes, the execution of it is quite good, simple or no.

      • koutchboom says :

        For me I thought Death Sentence just had a stupid set up of just some thungs gunning some poor family down, and it all felt false and forced. Like these thugs had no connection to Bacon and his family just a random act of violence. With Edge there were those little scenes like a single dad getting all excited to see his daughter, making her dinner. When she’s shot and he whipes the blood off of himself and puts the cloth in the cup, as to remember her you didn’t get anything like that in Death Sentence. Plus Death Sentence and Taken were very cut and dry good bad that’s it. Edge could’ve gone a lot dumber route, I liked that he was just a solid cop they easily could’ve thrown in a whole side story of Mel trying to re track some criminal he bagged forever ago down. Edge on a whole was a much more rewarding movie because it did have all those smaller elements and wasn’t just some teenagers idea of how revenge works. Sure parts of Edge were silly, but it made sense and worked. Either way all three movies are better then 44 inch Chest.

  13. Fata says :

    I enjoyed this movie just last month (along with Patriot Games and Red October). Entertaining movie (and review). It doesn’t feel authentic in the sense that it could actually happen in that fashion. It’s a little too glossy for that, but again, this was 1994 – and it’s certainly not boring.

  14. ThereWolf says :

    CAPD didn’t engage me when I saw it, just couldn’t tune in to what was going on. Consequently, it’s one of those films I’ve always promised meself another look at… but never have.

    Maybe I will, one day…

    Always wanted to see K-19 as well…

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