Clear and Present Danger (1994)

2014 #67
Phillip Noyce | 135 mins | TV | 2.35:1 | USA / English | 12 / PG-13

Clear and Present DangerI don’t know if it says more about me or the two Harrison Ford-starring Jack Ryan movies that I wrote 250 words of this review before I realised I was actually talking about Patriot Games. Weirdly, it’s this sequel that I thought was better.

This time, Ryan finds himself getting a promotion thanks to his boss falling ill, just as a crisis explodes around drugs trafficking from Mexico to the US: a friend of the President is killed by the cartels, then exposed as being in cahoots with them. Uh-oh! Behind closed doors, and unbeknownst to Ryan, elements within the government plot to illegally send a super-secret squad into Mexico and kill those so-and-sos. As Ryan investigates the to-do legally, he begins to suspect something else is going on…

Like its predecessor, the story for Clear and Present Danger winds out across multiple threads that aren’t directly connected for quite some time. However, their interrelation is a bit clearer, making the film feel more focused, in spite of its boosted running time. The plot isn’t exactly inspiring, sadly, but it does allow for a few more memorable sequences: an alleyway ambush on an American convoy, with Ryan in the thick of the action (a scenario which is apparently still used to train real troops); and, in a very modern twist, a sequence where Ryan hacks into a corrupt colleague’s computer, while the colleague tries to delete the files Ryan is looking for. Pretty cutting-edge for 1994.

ConfrontationIt’ll come as no surprise that Ryan ends up exposing the nasty conspiracy — which goes as high as the President! But what does a good American patriot do when he finds out the practically-holy President has committed such a sin?! The novel ends with Ryan confronting him… and then deciding not to expose his secret war. Presumably this is thanks to Clancy’s obviously-Conservative political views. “Liberal” Hollywood, on the other hand, has given us a more just — and more satisfying — conclusion. Thank goodness for that.

Though an improvement on its immediate predecessor, I wouldn’t say Clear and Present Danger was quite a stand-out addition to the espionage genre. Following an aborted attempt to restart the franchise eight years later in The Sum of All Fears, and what looks to be another twelve years after that, in last January’s Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit, perhaps Jack Ryan’s popularity is destined to remain literary.

3 out of 5

Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit is available on Now TV now and premieres on Sky Movies Premiere this Friday.

Field of Dreams (1989)

2008 #38
Phil Alden Robinson | 103 mins | TV | PG / PG

Field of DreamsI’ve never made much of an effort to see Field of Dreams, for a couple of reasons. Aside from its famous mantra/catchphrase (“if you build it he will come”), the only things I’d heard were it was mawkishly sentimental and was about Kevin Costner trying to build a baseball pitch for a ghost — which doesn’t sound particularly exciting and is about sport, something I’m not very fond of. Of course, as anyone who’s seen it will know, I was a tad misled on that last point, as the glorified rounders pitch is built in the first 20 minutes. What follows certainly has its fair share of sentimentality, but I wouldn’t call it mawkish.

In fact, it’s almost unremittingly pleasant. The lack of anything hard-hitting is no doubt why some have such a dim view of the film, as “nice” has become synonymous with “not very good” in modern parlance (I blame Primary School teachers desperate to increase vocabulary). Field of Dreams won’t shock you, it likely won’t make you think very hard, and any moral message or meaning it has is positive and reassuring… but what’s so wrong with that? The plot keeps moving, refusing to be bogged down in navel-gazing or star-gazing. The story is also too unusual to be marred by any serious degree of predictability, though some events are of course easily guessed, but the mystery of how the various elements would come together kept my attention throughout. Crucially, it doesn’t labour its sentimentality or batter you round the head with morals or meanings. It’s hardly ambiguous, but nor is it over done.

Field of Dreams may not be astounding filmmaking — it’s not especially complex, radical, thrilling, thought-provoking, intense or revolutionary, nor terribly serious or terribly funny, nor indeed wholly original — but it is nice. And I mean that in a good way.

4 out of 5

Field of Dreams is on ITV today, Saturday 27th September 2014, at 2:35pm.