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Paramount Studios presents

Clear and Present Danger (Blu-ray) (1994)

"You took an oath, if you recall, when you first came to work for me. And I don't mean to the National Security Advisor of the United States, I mean to his boss... and I don't mean the President. You gave your word to his boss: you gave your word to the people of the United States. Your word is who you are."- Admiral James Greer (James Earl Jones)

Stars: Harrison Ford, Willem Dafoe, Henry Czerny, Joaquim de Almeida, Harris Yulin, Anne Archer, James Earl Jones
Other Stars: Benjamin Bratt, Raymond Cruz, Thora Birch, Donald Moffat, Miguel Sandoval, Ted Raimi
Director: Phillip Noyce

MPAA Rating: PG-13 for violence, language
Run Time: 02h:21m:15s
Release Date: 2008-07-29
Genre: techno thriller

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer


DVD Review

Summer 1994. I was a fifteen-year-old high school sophomore whose obsession with movies was well underway. I had been looking forward to Clear and Present Danger with great anticipation having been a great admirer of the previous Jack Ryan thrillers The Hunt for Red October and Patriot Games. And I can still remember being there on opening day, armed with a box of Junior Mints and a gallon tub of soda, ready for the latest bout of political intrigue and adventure concerning Jack Ryan.

I wasn't disappointed then (I couldn't have been since I ended up going back to Clear and Present Danger for two encore viewings), and fourteen years later I'm happy to say it still holds up as the most impressive of all Tom Clancy adaptations. With its remarkable scope, ensemble cast of characters and unusually assured direction from Philip Noyce (is this really the same man who made The Bone Collector?), Clear and Present Danger involves and excites without insulting the intelligence of the viewer.

The President of the United States (Donald Moffatt) declares war on Colombian drug cartels by authorizing a series of covert operations behind enemy lines run by ex-CIA operative, Clark (Willem Dafoe). In Washington, Jack Ryan (Harrison Ford) is appointed acting director of the CIA, just in time to go before the senate and promise that the allocation of funds will not be used for direct retaliation. It's not long, however, before Ryan gets wind of the operation and discovers that he's been set up as a fall guy should the military operation go south.

Tom Clancy's source novel is a complex work and adapting it into a film running just north of two hours seems like a daunting task. I actually read it before the film came out and was consistently impressed by how faithful the screenplay (credited to three scribes: John Milius, Donald Stewart and Steven Zaillian) was. Sure, Ryan's part is significantly beefed up for these cinematic proceedings but the flow of Clancy's story remains intact.

But this is a classy affair all the way around. Ford is naturally great in this film. He goes through great lengths to humanize Ryan here, particularly in the action sequences. The climactic showdown in Colombia features an awkward, bumbling Ryan skirting through a warzone in an effort to correct the wrongs that his character has been deemed responsible for. As his polar opposite, Willem Dafoe's Clark is one cool character. With limited screen time his character makes a lasting impression. As far as the villains go, there's no shortage of them here, and each actor brings something different to the table. Miguel Sandoval is slightly over-the-top in his portrayal of the drug baron, Escobado. Joaquim de Almedia steals the film as the slimy and formidable advisor, Felix, whose motivations are not what they first seem. On the D.C. front, Harris Yulin and Henry Czerny are equally terrific as the bureaucratic lackeys of the President.

This is also the best film in Philip Noyce's career. Clear and Present Danger boasts two interesting color palates: an overtly blue for the D.C scenes and an overly red hue for the hazy jungle sequences. The result creates the perfect atmosphere for both environments. He juggles the potentially hyperactive storyline expertly, ensuring nothing is lost in the shuffle. There are some fantastic directorial touches here as well, such as a cutaway to Ford's distressed face as Clark executes a guard at point blank range. Credit should also be given for turning a simple computer hacking sequence into the film's most suspenseful and memorable bit.

I know that The Hunt for Red October is often considered the best of the Jack Ryan series. I don't want to take anything away from that earlier production, but I do believe Clear and Present Danger trumps it in every respect. A pitch-perfect political thriller that has lost none of its intrigue nearly 15 years later.

Rating for Style: A
Rating for Substance: A


Image Transfer

Aspect Ratio2.35:1 - Widescreen
Original Aspect Ratioyes

Image Transfer Review: Paramount's high definition image here is a bit of a mixed bag. The print features occasional specs of dirt (mainly found in the opening moments) that surprisingly have not been cleaned up for this release. There's a healthy dose of DNR applied to the image here, too. Mostly noticeable in the fleshtones during the close-up shots, it becomes slightly distracting—particularly in the wrinkles on Harrison Ford's forehead. It appears as though Paramount's attempt to digitally process out film grain has resulted in removing some detail as well.

It's not all downhill, though. The Washington D.C. settings are moody while the the jungle scenes are as rich and textured as any high definition image I've seen. The DNR is admittedly a bit of a detriment, but I was overall pleased by the image quality here. While not perfect, it's still the best that the film has ever looked.

Image Transfer Grade: B+

Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
Dolby Digital
English, French, Spanish (5.1 Only)yes

Audio Transfer Review: A solid 5.1 True HD mix, the dialogue is crystal clear and never lost in the proceedings. The most frustrating thing that can happen with an HD audio track is to have to constantly adjust the volume due to an inconsistent track. Thankfully the action never drowns out the dialogue here. Action is loud and worked through the rear channels in a satisfying manner. If the image quality is a little troubled, the audio, while not perfect, delivers.

Audio Transfer Grade: A- 

Disc Extras

Full Motion menu with music
Scene Access with 23 cues and remote access
1 TV Spots/Teasers
1 Documentaries
Packaging: standard Blu-ray packaging
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: single

Extras Review: With the exception of the theatrical trailer, the only extra is a documentary entitled Behind the Danger (26m:34s). It's an enjoyable little retrospective involving many of the film's key participants sans Willem Dafoe. I can't say there's much new information offered up here, but it's nice to see everyone again and gleam a few interesting tidbits about the production including a dissection of the famous ambush sequence.

Extras Grade: B

Final Comments

Despite a transfer wracked with occasional dirt and some fairly distracting examples of DNR, Paramount's Blu-Ray is still the best home video presentation of this film on the market (and I know, I've owned this sucker once on VHS and twice on DVD). I took issues with Paramount's presentation but if you're a fan of the film, it's nothing to stay away from, either. It might not be the perfect presentation I'd hoped for, but unless you're intent on owning only the best Blu-ray discs out there, Clear and Present Danger still gets a recommendation from me.

Matt Serafini 2008-09-12