Tom Clancy’s working man hero, Jack Ryan, has become a cinematic staple of the fast 30 or so years, with several attempts at getting the character and story right for the big screen. The attempts are often flawed though entertaining in their own right despite stepping too far away from Clancy’s source material than not. Beginning with Alec Baldwin in the role in The Hunt for Red October, a brilliantly engaging thriller, the stories of Jack Ryan were followed by two outings with Harrison Ford in the role in 1992s Patriot Games and 1994s Clear and Present Danger – both thrilling if flawed tales. Paramount sought a modest reboot of the series with Ben Affleck taking over in 2002s The Sum of All Fears which, despite a healthy $118MM domestic box office haul, was deemed a failure. The cinematic adventures were suspended until a second reboot was conceived by the studio in Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit. A non-Clancy story was reformatted to feature the Ryan character, but audiences were lukewarm to the result and Paramount ended up walking away from the franchise as a cinematic property. The character has been rebooted for the streaming service, Amazon, with strong critical reaction. Whether Jack Ryan will find his way to the big screen again remains to be seen, but with the right actor in the role, and a more faithful adherence to Clancy’s work, it could be successful if tried.
The Production: 4/5
The Hunt for Red October: 4.5/5
“When I was twelve, I helped my daddy build a bomb shelter in our basement because some fool parked a dozen warheads 90 miles off the coast of Florida. Well, this thing could park a coupla hundred warheads off Washington and New York and no one would know anything about it till it was all over.”
The Soviet Union’s newest submarine, the Red October, has set off on its inaugural sailing under the helm of legendary Captain Marko Ramius (Sean Connery) on a routine mission. However, its captain and senior crew, hand selected by Ramius, contravene their routine orders and make haste for the American coast. But what are the Red October’s ultimate intentions? CIA Analyst Jack Ryan (Alex Baldwin), already investigating the new sub and its possible special stealth drive (which renders it invisible to standard sonar), gets word of Ramius’ actions, which ripple through U.S. government intelligence, triggering a military response. Ryan, having written papers on Ramius, suggests that rather than aggressive intentions, the crew might be trying to defect. With precious little time, Ryan has to find the Red October before its own people do, and avert a catastrophe.
The Hunt for Red October is the purest, most faithful adaptation of Tom Clancy’s intelligent work that the big screen has seen. Director John McTiernan’s approach to the material is layered with patience and dramatic thrills rather than action outbursts which makes the few moments when there is action all the more meaningful. After the one-two punch of Predator (1987) and Die Hard (1988), two thrilling action pictures, McTiernan showed off a delightful expansion of his cinematic vernacular with this impressive cold-war tale.
By the time the film premiered in theaters, the cold war had thawed and talk about the film– before it had actually arrived–seemed to center on criticizing its late timing. As always, though, a great story told exceedingly well is never late, and Jack Ryan’s big screen premiere, once it opened, was a solid, generally lauded hit.
The Hunt for Red October is an intelligent, exciting and well-crafted thriller with a commanding and convincing performance by Sean Connery (despite being a Scottish accented Russian with his Captain Marko Ramius), and a perfectly unassuming and endearing performance by Alec Baldwin. Unlike future installments, where the story would focus on the character of Jack Ryan, Hunt is the story of two men from different sides of the cold war on a journey that has them intersect deep beneath the ocean. It features two journeys, equally as fascinating, compellingly performed by a rarely better Connery and a very well-cast Baldwin. Connery in particular delivers a performance rich in his silence and the beats between the words he speaks, carrying an unquestionably authoritative sensibility. For his part, Baldwin’s Ryan proves compelling in his pursuit of what he believes to be right, that Captain Ramius is no threat, risking a great deal to prove his conclusion right and avoid a potentially dangerous confrontation. The ‘boy scout’ of Ryan shines through, with an innocence and analytical prowess that proves smarts can be more compelling than brawn in the right story. Baldwin is dashing in the role and exceedingly likeable.
Besides the two main stars, The Hunt for Red October sports a brilliant extended cast that includes Sam Neill as Borodin (Ramius’ 2nd in command), Scott Glenn’s Bart Mancuso (Captain of the U.S.S. Dallas), James Earl Jones in the first of three appearances as Admiral Greer, Courtney B. Vance as Seaman Jones, and many more.
The Hunt for Red October remains a thrilling motion picture, told with McTiernan’s most assured direction and excellent performances. The first in a five-film series that saw it’s principle character, Jack Ryan, eventually performed by four different actors, but none that captured the essence of the character on Clancy’s pages than Baldwin, in a film that still ranks today as the very best.
Patriot Games: 3/5
“Bloody proud of yourself, aren’t you? You stuck your nose in where it didn’t belong. And now you’ve killed my baby brother.”
On a trip to London, Jack Ryan (Harrison Ford) intervenes and foils the attempted kidnapping of British Royals, killing the younger brother of Sean Miller, one of the apprehended attackers. Hailed as a hero, Ryan returns to the U.S. with his family, but Miller is enraged. Escaping from custody with the help of his terrorist cell (a disavowed cell of the Irish Republican Army), he is bent on exacting revenge on Ryan and his family.
Patriot Games was notoriously denounced by Tom Clancy for straying so far from the source material as to not make sense for him to keep his name on it). Therefore, what we have is a film that fails its source origin but becomes something different, and at times quite effective nonetheless. The risky proposition of recasting the Jack Ryan role (once Alec Baldwin had departed the project) was allayed by securing Harrison Ford, an established and beloved actor. As an analysts unaccustomed to violence, Ford is a very good fit. He’s modest and believable as an everyman. So, rather than his performance failing the Jack Ryan template, it’s the script. Phillip Noyce does well behind the camera directing the action. There is an authenticity in a number of sequences that resonate, including the spy satellite view of the military takedown of terrorist training camp in Africa. Yet, despite a number of strengths, the film isn’t what it’s ingredients promise it could be.
Where Patriot Games wavers most notably is in being the second story for the Jack Ryan series. The Hunt for Red October introduced a very different Jack Ryan, younger, more wide-eyed and field-green, whereas Patriot Games presents an older, more seasoned analyst at a later stage in his career, that hurls us deep into a revenge thriller. It’s the kind intimate story turn better fitting a later entry in a series once we’ve witnessed the geopolitical thrills with Ryan at its heart. Patriot Games is more conversational than the action movies we get today, and the investment of time given to the antagonists makes for a far more interesting time, yet still, it wasn’t wise to be the story we get along with a new Ryan in the role.
Patriot Games works to make it quite clear the terrorists attempting to kidnap the Royal and masterminding the ensuing violence are not doing so at the behest of the Irish Republican Army. In doing so, it steers clear of political implications that such depictions might have had at the time. It’s somewhat successful, clearly inspired by the ‘lone’ operative Ian Ball who attempted to kidnap Princess Anne in 1974. Still, the absence of the chess-like political maneuvering and thrilling machinations that made its predecessor, Hunt, so compelling, are sidelined and that hurt clearly hurt the potential of this cinematic series.
Clear and Present Danger: 3.5/5
“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.”
Following the discovery of a close-friend of the President of the United States murdered at sea, the President authorizes covert and unsanctioned military action against the drug cartels believed to be behind the brutal act. Jack Ryan (Harrison Ford), thrust into the politics of it all when his boss and friend, Jim Greer (James Earl Jones) is sidelined with terminal cancer, soon realizes he is being kept in the dark. With a string of retaliatory strikes in Colombia against cartels heating up, and a deadly attack upon Ryan and fellow agents in Bogota, Ryan finds that he’s in deep and must expose the men behind the illegal actions.
Clear and Present Danger is an at-times complex, politically intriguing thriller, broader and more expansive than Patriot Games, and a more compelling intellectually than the prior installment. It is the film that should have followed The Hunt for Red October, as it hues closer tonally to the first film in the series, with dashes of lightheartedness mixed among the heavier moment. Harrison Ford also finds a more confident rhythm for his Jack Ryan, driven here not protecting his family but by the pursuit of truth and justice; universal truths we want all good people to stand for. The multiple locations used, from Washington D.C. to Bogota and the Colombian jungles, help expand the feel of the film. There are several very effective sequences, most notably the highly explosive SUV attack in the streets of Bogota, and the missile strike at the big meeting of drug lords. These, along with the scrappy finale, are well-constructed and thrilling.
Director Phillip Noyce builds up the narrative efficiently, working with a fine cast of players, including Ford’s honest and humble approach to the Ryan character. Henry Czerny and Harris Yullin as Ritter and Cutter respectively, high ranking and corrupt members of the administration, are effective domestic villains, with Joaquim de Almeida’s Felix Cortez and Miguel Sandoval’s Ernesto Escobedo serving as terrific South American foils. Willem Defoe’s as Clarke, the plugged in on-the-ground liaison in Columbia, is a compelling character the film though we could have done with more of him. Anne Archer and Thora Birch reprise their roles as Ryan’s wife and daughter, and a few other ancillary characters, both new and reprising, doing well.
A generally strong film that remains engaging throughout, it does seem to falter most, outside of more deviations from Clancy’s source material, in the movement of all the political, military, domestic and foreign chess pieces. It isn’t as deft as it needs to be. While it wasn’t an option at the time it was made, the political intrigue here would have been better-served by a limited series run. I wonder of Amazon’s new Jack Ryan series will approach Clancy’s books for future seasons. If so, this is a story that could be exceptional if explored in that format.
Despite its issues, Clear and Present Danger is a good film; it’s a good thriller, though despite the more sprawling nature of its story and appealing political undercurrent, it doesn’t match the excellence of the first film. The film did perform well at the box office. Not a runaway success, but a healthy earner for Paramount, and was a shame Ford didn’t make another turn.
The Sum of All Fears: 3/5
“You’re about to breathe air that’s way over your pay grade so listen up. You’re going to be asked for analysis and advice, so be God damn sure you know what you’re talking about before you give it. Don’t be afraid to say you don’t know. Choose your words carefully, words have a habit of being turned into policy.”
When a long-forgotten Israeli nuclear bomb, buried by sand and time after being shot down at the end of the 1973 Yom Kippur War, is unearthed and sold on the black market to malicious, Nazi terrorists, a grand plot begins with design on turning the ‘old guard’ powers of the East and West, Russia and America, against each other. The plot begins with subversive military actions done in the name of Russia (but not ordered by their president), and escalates with the detonation on U.S. soil of the restored nuclear bomb. Young CIA analyst, Jack Ryan (Ben Affleck), author of a well-regarded paper on the recently sworn-in Russian president, is brought in to provide intelligence on the fast shifting and evermore dangerous activity involving America’s long-time foe, and must race against time to discover what’s really happening before World War III breaks out.
The Sum of All Fears is a handsomely produced thriller, but it isn’t, ultimately, a very good one. There are elements of a great story here; bits and pieces of plot and sequences that work very well trapped in an overall construct that just doesn’t pass muster. Clancy’s original published story didn’t involve right-wing and Nazi groups coordinating the global ruse pitting superpowers against each other. As insidious and craven as the violent right-wing, nationalist and Nazi groups are, there is nothing that remotely seems plausible about rogue groups like these working in coordination to pull of something as deadly and grotesque as the plot at the center here. Bizarre given the reported reason for changing the villains, according to director Phil Alden Robinson, from Islamic terrorists to these white nationalist bastards was a disbelief in Islamic terrorists being able to pull off something so complex. While the film was being made, Islamic terrorist were able to pull off a deadly attack on American soil on September 11, 2001. While not as complex as the terrorist acts in the film, it demonstrated an underestimation of that enemy. The use of Nazi-types as villains in this film is never convincing. Worse, the screenplay spends absolutely no time trying to convince us of their plausibility. We spend almost the entire film watching the consequences of the villain’s acts and no time unpacking the grotesqueries of their beliefs or the nature of how the apparent disparate Nazi and extremist right-wing scum were able to come together for the massive plot.
Jack Ryan films largely work on the strength of the man playing Jack Ryan. Alec Baldwin was superb, Harrison Ford was very good, Ben Affleck is okay, and as such, there goes the film. It’s just okay. Phil Alden Robinson works hard to help us connect with this iteration of Ryan, and dips into the playbook used so well in Hunt for Red October, with a look and feel that hues closer to director McTiernan’s work than Philip Noyce’s efforts on Patriot Games and Clear and Present Danger. The script offers some nice turns on occasion, but wavers at times. Story conveniences inject artificial tension, most egregious of which is Ryan’s call to Cabot (Morgan Freeman), who amongst the crowd at the Baltimore stadium can’t hear the warning Ryan is trying to relay. Rather than get to a quiet spot, Cabot sits there struggling to hear (and this is after he earlier got a call, couldn’t hear anyone on the line, hung up and sits down – in his line of work that makes zero sense).
As I mentioned, there’s plenty of good elements at play here but something is amiss and the chief challenges are three-fold. First, the repercussions at play and that we see played out are far greater than anything from the three prior films. Despite Red October being somewhat equal in threat (the launch of nuclear missiles from the Americans and Soviets), the action was much tighter, localized. There’s major destruction in Sum, and it feels uncharacteristic of this series, largely in part to the second problem. The second challenge is going with the young Ryan for this particular story. The novice analyst elevated so quickly into the inner circle of intelligence and the weight of this story isn’t convincing. Third is the timing of the film and the events it depicts so soon after the pain of 9/11. America, hit by the deadliest terrorist attacks on American soil in her history, with the images of the falling towers and the thousands murdered, watching a nuclear bomb detonate in a packed stadium in a major U.S. city was hard to watch at the time and I think was ill-advised to have included.
In the cast, Sum offers a very good collection of talent. While Affleck is likable and okay in the role, it wasn’t the right fit. Morgan Freeman’s turn as William Cabot, short-lived though it might have been, was rather good as he was able to convey the political and intelligence expertise in every one of his lines. James Cromwell’s President Fowler is suitable, and his cabinet, which included actors such as Philip Baker Hall, Bruce McGill and John Beasley, serve the story well. Ciarán Hinds as Russian President Nemerov is perhaps one of the finer performances in the film, with a seriousness and reasonableness needed for the character. Liev Schreiber’s Clarke (the same character Willem Defoe portrayed in the previous film) is fun to watch. Colm Feore’s Olsen, one of the core villains, is woefully underwritten and underused. As is Alan Bates’ Nazi villain, Dressler.
Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit: 3/5
“You’re not just an analyst anymore, you’re operational now.”
Following the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks on New York City, a young American student, Jack Ryan (Chris Pine) at London School of Economic decides to join the Marines. On tour, he equips himself admirably, demonstrating a penchant for intelligence awareness and strategic prowess, but during a routine patrol over Afghanistan, his helicopter is shot down and Jack is seriously wounded. Returned to the Unites States he undergoes intensive physical therapy and must relearn to walk. During his recovery, Ryan develops a relationship with his physical therapist, Cathy (Kiera Knightly) and while there, is approached by Thomas Harper (Kevin Costner), a seasoned CIA agent, and asks him to join the covert agency.
Jack begins his CIA career embedded in Wall Street, analyzing financial data and gathering information on suspected terrorist funding from the heart of the global financial industry. After years covertly gathering information, he uncovers suspicious Russian accounts, belonging to a powerful financial player, Viktor Cherevin (Kenneth Branagh). Ryan reluctantly heads to Moscow to perform an audit of the suspicious accounts, under the guise of a Wall Street auditor, and uncovers a deadly plot to launch a terrorist attack on American soil and orchestrate a financial collapse that would render the American economy paralyzed.
Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit’s greatest sin is aiming low. Tom Clancy’s working-man, analyst-hero is likeable and capable as a low-key, intelligent operative uncomfortable in the action hero trapping. Here, with a largely generic script by Adam Cozard and David Koepp, Jack Ryan falls too easily into the brawling, action-inclined protagonist, at the expense of his everyman allure and vulnerable poise. In that regard, Harrison Ford’s portrayal as Ryan is a fine template to have sought to use here, with his blending of intelligence expertise and scrappy combat skills that tend to be more luck than precise. For all its capable production values and enjoyable portrayal of Ryan’s backstory (his lengthy recovery from a helicopter crash first spoken of in The Hunt for Red October), Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit falls entirely short of anything exceptional.
Director Kenneth Branagh, who also plays the role of the steely cold Viktor Cherevin, is a fine filmmaker. Proving himself as gifted behind the camera, (his Henry V and Hamlet are brilliantly handled), as he is as an actor, (where his mastery of Shakespeare and of likeable characters in projects like Harry Potter and the fine detective series Wallander,) Branagh adds weight to the proceedings. And as the antagonist in Jack Ryan, he is again very good. His scenes with Pine and Knightly are highlights of the film, but his character’s purpose and plot are mostly shallow repeats of familiar conceits. Fellow supporting cast members Kevin Costner and Kiera Knightly are mostly background, short-shifting Costner’s season CIA operative as a suitable mentor for Ryan (this is his function here, but it’s taken for granted rather than earned). Knightly’s role as Ryan’s love interest–kept in the dark about what he really does for a living-is poorly written and as such, remains a weak point in the cast. Besides a few moments of strength and a little wit, her role develops as little more than a device when the plot requires and walks awfully close to being a complete waste.
As the title character, Chris Pine is rather good in the role. He has the requisite all-American bravura with both smart and capable intuition brimming in his performance. And he is very likeable. Given a weightier screenplay relying on the thrill of intelligence over the action of motorcycle and car chases, he could have become a serious contender for the next generation of cinematic heroes. Given the relative poor performance of Jack Ryan at the box office ($135MM global take from a $60MM budget, with just a $50MM take in the US), the follow-up that never came was no surprise, though the character will now live on in Amazon’s very well received show, Jack Ryan.
3D Rating: NA
The Hunt for Red October: 4.5/5
Patriot Games: 4/5
Clear and Present Danger: 4.5/5
The Sum of All Fears: 4.5/5
Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit: 5/5
Paramount delivers the 5-film collection of Jack Ryan cinematic stories on Ultra High Definition for the first time, with each movie looking better than I’ve seen before on home video, and with a nice grading of Dolby Vision (and HDR 10).
What we have is an improvement over the previous iterations (I’ve owned the first two films on VHS, the first four on DVD, and all five on Blu-ray before the release of this set). Each film is a little darker than I recalled, with the often claustrophobic, tight-quarter settings in Hunt seeming particularly light-starved at times, but there is a very good level of detail on offer throughout the collection. These aren’t demo-worthy UHD discs, but fine examples each of how these films can deliver fine detail levels, strong shadow detail, and a retention of film grain.
Certain scenes are more representative of the benefits of 4K and HDR better than others, with key scenes such as the prison convoy attack and escape sequence in Patriot Games really shining. Another stand-out moment is from The Sum of All Fears, which finds Ben Affleck and Morgan Freeman sitting in a car during a rainy evening while Jack Ryan is given unsanctioned orders. The image is purposefully dark, but all the details are strong, the rain drops on the window silhouetted by the out of focus light sources in the distance are pristine, and it’s a very good scene in how it was filmed and how it looks herr. It represents the best of what this particular film offers in 4K with Dolby Vision HDR grading.
Clear and Present Danger has a number of strong moments, including the opening sequence and the scene with the U.S. soldiers in a deadly firefight with cartel militia in the Colombian jungle, and despite softness at times (softness you will also find in Patriot Games), this appears to be in the intentional look of the film.
These 4K discs are the best these films have looked on home video, though don’t expect a wow presentation of pop and pizazz, just a strong presentation of these films.
The Hunt for Red October: 4.5/5
Patriot Games: 4.5/5
Clear and Present Danger: 4/5
The Sum of All Fears: 4.5/5
Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit: 4.5/5
All the audio options are repeats of the previously available options from earlier Blu-rays, with the first four films featuring Dolby TrueHD 5.1, and Shadow Recruit coming with an impressive DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 track. Generally, these are still very good tracks. Hunt brings the late Basil Poledouris’ magnificent score, with choral power and a terrific mix of orchestral and electronic combining to something really special. Heavily mixed in the audio it is pronounced and front-and-center at times. It works very well. The fine balance of the mix, with dialogue, action, effects and music continues through the film series. Hunt is perhaps the best example of what the TrueHD 5.1 tracks offer, though that is likely more due to the film itself and the terrific mix of action styles (Aircraft carrier action, helicopters, submarines, and more). Throughout this series, audio is crisp and clear. Patriot Games and Clear and Present Danger are generally more subdued films and the use of James Horner’s brilliant scores key in carrying the picture. Patriot Games’ Celtic-laden score is quite haunting and lovely and superbly precise in the surrounds, whereas Clear’s more traditionally American and patriotic–brassy, bolder-styled score-being pronounced in the audio mix. The firefight in the jungle is a fine example of the power and clarity of the audio.
The Sum of All Fears is another strong audio with a good balance between dialogue, action and music. The stadium sequence is clearly a highlight, with Jerry Goldsmith’s arrangement of the “Star Spangled Banner” standing out (before the music purposefully disappears during the ensuing carnage and chaos, allowing the audio effects to standout). Goldsmith’s score is in line with his fine output during the early 2000’s, with echoes of his others scores noticeable in places.
For Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit, the English 7.1 DTS-HD Master Audio track is superbly rendered, dispersing the surrounding sounds of helicopters, emergency vehicles, and ferocious car chases with the requisite spread. Deep bass and LFE rip the lower end, pulsing with Patrick Doyle’s less distinct yet effective score. Action sequences will pleasingly stretch your home theater components. A fine, issue-free audio.
Special Features: 2/5
The Hunt for Red October: 1.5/5
Patriot Games: 1/5
Clear and Present Danger: 1/5
The Sum of All Fears: 2.5/5
Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit: 3.5/5
As with just about every UHD release of an ‘older’ movie, only the available audio commentaries are included as part of the UHD disc with all the special features from the previous Blu-ray release included on the Blu-ray discs of each movie included in the set. The first four films come with a highly disappointing handful of special features that, despite the length of a few of them (30 mins or so), don’t really offer much engaging insight.
The Sum of All Fears gets close to an hour of special features, and Shadow Recruit gets a more broad collection but nothing that really rises to very good.
The Hunt for Red October
Audio Commentary with John McTiernan
Beneath the Surface
Patriot Games Up Close
Clear and Present Danger
Behind the Danger
The Sum of All Fears
Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit
Audio Commentary by Kenneth Branagh and Lorenzo di Bonaventura
Jack Ryan: Smartest Guy in the Room
Sir Kenneth Branagh: The Tsar of Shadow Recruit
Jack Ryan: A Thinking Man of Action
Old Enemies Return
Deleted & Extended Scenes with Optional Commentary by Kenneth Branagh and Lorenzo di Bonaventura
Despite the inconsistent quality and endless recasting of the Jack Ryan role, there is a staying power to this series, which started with near perfection in The Hunt for Red October and struggled to recapture the rarified air created by that film.
Paramount’s 5-film, 10-disc collection of the Jack Ryan movie series on UHD is the best the films have looked at home though the first three films at least might be darker than you remember. I’d recommend for fans of the film series and I suspect many will wait for them to be released individually so they can pick up just the first film. I appreciate the first three films, despite the flaws of the second and third, and find the series quite good overall. But the first film is still and absolute knock-out!https://smile.amazon.com/Jack-Ryan-5-Film-Collection-UHD/dp/B07FKPNJ8Q/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1537752688&sr=8-2&keywords=jack+ryan+4k