Blu-ray Review: Harrison Ford as Jack Ryan in PATRIOT GAMES & CLEAR AND PRESENT DANGER

As the star of two of the most successful film franchises of the ‘80s, Harrison Ford was the obvious choice to take on the role of Jack Ryan for director Phillip Noyce’s Patriot Games, released on Blu-ray last week.

As the star of two of the most successful film franchises of the €˜80s, Harrison Ford was the obvious choice to take on the role of Jack Ryan for director Phillip Noyce€™s Patriot Games, released on Blu-ray last week. Following on from Alec Baldwin€™s portrayal of the character in The Hunt For Red October, where Ryan was very much a supporting role to Sean Connery€™s Russian submarine captain, producers required a more bankable star to fill Ryan€™s boots for a story focussing more on Ryan and his family as he takes on a terrorist splinter group. Based on Tom Clancy€™s international best-seller, Patriot Games follows former CIA analyst Jack Ryan as he travels to London for a vacation with his wife (Anne Archer, Fatal Attraction) and child (Thora Birch, American Beauty). Meeting his family outside Buckingham Palace, Ryan is caught in the middle of a terrorist attack on Lord Holmes (James Fox, The Russia House), a member of the Royal Family. Ryan helps to thwart Holmes€™ assailants and becomes a local hero. But Ryan€™s courageous act marks him as a target in the sights of the terrorist Sean Miller (Sean Bean, Ronin) whose brother he killed. Now Ryan must return to action for the most vital assignment of his life: to save his family. Ford is a near perfect as Ryan, he is equally believable as a family man, as a CIA analyst and as an all out action hero. He brings his trademark, dry sense of humour to the role while still maintaining sincerity and a businesslike approach to his situation. Sean Bean makes for an impressive adversary, with this film setting the standard for which many of his Hollywood bad guy roles have followed. He is a truly detestable character whose own ideology and motivation develops throughout the film much to the disgust of the members of his organisation; he loses sight of his original goals for purely personal revenge. Ford and Bean are ably supported by Anne Archer and Thora Birch as Ryan€™s wife and daughter along with Patrick Bergen and Polly Walker as members of Miller€™s terror cell. With the films main theme regarding the protection of Ryan€™s family, Archer and Birch are well served by the screenplay and rather than being sidelined to the background, are involved in the majority of the film€™s action set pieces. Bergen and Walker also make an impression as a terrorist mastermind losing his grip on his team and hard-ass hit-woman respectively. Acting heavyweights Richard Harris and James-Earl Jones add gravitas in significant roles with a pre-Pulp Fiction Samuel L. Jackson as Ryan€™s nerdy best friend and Shameless€™s David Threlfall as an Irish police inspector joining the cast. Director Philip Noyce, riding high on the success of Aussie thriller Dead Calm, injects a similar amount of tension and thrills to this film. From the opening assassination attempt to a brilliantly filmed highway car chase all leading to an action packed climactic game of cat and mouse set in Ryan€™s family home culminating in a high speed boat chase. The film certainly has no shortage of well paced action however that€™s not to say that the film is lacking brains. A standout sequence proving Noyce€™s excellent judgement, takes place entirely in the offices of the CIA as Ryan and a board of executives watch a monitor showing satellite footage of an assault on a terrorist training camp. I remember the scene was something quite extraordinary when the film was first released in 1992 as it showed how far technology in warfare had advanced; the idea that missions could be viewed in real time from an office at Langley was quite startling. In what could have been an excuse for a gung-ho action scene of Navy Seals taking out terrorists and punching the air shouting €œUSA€, we are instead treated to a far more subtle and affecting show of military force using just heat signatures on a screen in a room full of silent onlookers. Of the four movie adaptations of Tom Clancy€™s Jack Ryan books, I have to say I think Patriot Games is by far the most successful. The wordy, analytical elements of the original source having been stripped back to strike the right balance between intelligence and gripping action with all round good performances from all involved. In Clear And Present Danger, also on Blu-ray from last week, Harrison Ford returns as intrepid CIA agent Jack Ryan. When his mentor Admiral James Greer (James Earl Jones) becomes gravely ill, Ryan is appointed acting CIA Deputy Director of Intelligence. His first assignment: investigate the murder of one of the president€™s friends, a prominent U.S. businessman with secret ties to Colombian drug cartels. Unbeknownst to Ryan, the CIA has already dispatched a deadly field operative (Willem Dafoe) to lead a paramilitary force against the Colombian drug lords. Caught in the crossfire, Ryan takes matters into his own hands, risking his career and life for the only cause he still believes in €“ the truth. With Noyce again at the helm and coming just two years after Patriot Games, one would expect Clear And Present Danger to be more of the same but instead it is almost the polar opposite of its predecessor. With a running time clocking in at 140 minutes the film opts for a statelier pace and an emphasis on the analytical side of CIA life. Noyce attempts to nail a realistic take on the monotony of paperwork and bureaucracy within the organisation. As Ryan wages a war on drugs his family take a backseat in this story with only a handful of scenes literally just to remind us of their existence. The majority of the film takes place in the offices of the CIA at Langley and in the Columbian jungles as Willem Dafoe and his black-ops team infiltrate a stereotypical group of South American drug smugglers that are so thinly drawn they are more like cartoon villains than the serious threat to national security they supposedly pose. While Dafoe and his team handle most of the brief bursts of action in the film it is left to Ryan to extract tension from the office based drama, including a standout scene where he is attempting to print incriminating information from a colleague€™s computer before it is deleted and with Noyce€™s deft handling; the scene is a lot more exciting than it sounds. There is a dearth of any real standout scenes to set the film apart from other films of the genre. The fact that Ford is left out of all but two action sequences is a real shame as I found myself not really caring whether Dafoe€™s cardboard army were successful. There are also no exceptional displays of technology akin to the Navy Seals assault in Patriot Games. There is still plenty of technology in use during the film however but its use lacks much placement in reality, for example a computer analyst that can crack a secret password in thirty seconds by using a printout of the owner€™s personal details and voice recognition software that can find matches on the database almost instantly. A better example of technology at use is during a scene with a laser guided smart bomb targeted on the drug cartel€™s base of operations but even this scene is let down by shoddy effects work. Despite its flaws, Clear And Present Danger is still a fairly solid, if overlong thriller. Ford, as always, is an extremely watchable actor and totally believable as the desk jockey forced to become a man of action to get things done. His interpretation of Jack Ryan is really all that holds the film together making it a shame that this proved to be his final, slightly anti-climactic outing as the character leaving the role open for Ben Affleck to follow in his footsteps. Quality Considering the films are almost 20 years old the HD presentation is not too bad. Both films show occasional deficiencies inherent in the original transfer with flecks and minor blips in the picture from time to time. Patriot Games seems to be the slightly better of the two with consistent, realistic colour throughout. In places, Clear And Present Danger shows signs of over the top colour restoration resulting in some unwanted issues such as Harrison Ford sporting what looks like a purple moustache in one scene and Willem Dafoe€™s make-up becomes rather too obvious. The 5.1 Dolby True HD audio is good throughout though not spectacular; dialogue is very clearly presented and mixed well with the sound effects and the excellent score from composer James Horner. Extras Both films have one solitary extra each, a 24 minute documentary on each disc delving into the making of the films illustrated with interviews, behind the scenes footage and clips from the movies. Unfortunately both are archival EPK style featurettes that give very little insight into the real making of the films and will do little to satisfy serious film fans. FilmPatriot Games - 4 out of 5 / Clear And Present Danger - 3 out of 5 Both films have their strengths and weaknesses but Patriot Games strikes the right balance of action and gripping drama whereas Clear And Present Danger is overlong and needlessly convoluted. VisualsPatriot Games - 4 out of 5 / Clear And Present Danger - 3 out of 5 1080p transfers are generally good for both movies but Clear And Present Danger loses a point for strange colouring in certain scenes. AudioPatriot Games - 4 out of 5 / Clear And Present Danger - 4 out of 5 Good 5.1 Dolby Digital soundtracks are well mixed with clear dialogue and strong music score. ExtrasPatriot Games - 1 out of 5 / Clear And Present Danger - 1 out of 5 Rubbish extras give little insight into the making of the films and at 24 minutes a piece they are no incentive to upgrade to the Blu-ray. PresentationPatriot Games - 1 out of 5 / Clear And Present Danger - 1 out of 5 Truly awful cover artwork really let this release down. The artwork for both is one of the worse Photoshop jobs I have ever seen and whoever commissioned this instead of the original poster artwork should be ashamed. OverallPatriot Games - 4 out of 5 / Clear And Present Danger - 3 out of 5 Decent enough HD upgrades for two solid thrillers with a strong lead performance from Harrison Ford holding them both together, but as is often the case with studio back catalogue releases they are given a lacklustre treatment in the extras department. Patriot Games & Clear and Present Danger are both out now Blu-ray.
We need more writers about Tom Clancy, Harrison-Ford, Willem-Dafoe, Thora Birch, phillip-noyce, Sean Bean, Jack Ryan, Patriot Games, Clear And Present Danger, The Hunt For Red October, Anne Archer and Reviews! Get started below...

Create Content and Get Paid


Contributor

Chris Wright hasn't written a bio just yet, but if they had... it would appear here.