13 August 2015 4888 Views


by James Murphy





This week, another thematic connection lead in. Notice that our piece on flops cites JACK RYAN.  It was a so-so action thriller but frankly a little derivative. That’s a terrible shame. It was the second failed attempt at rebooting the Jack Ryan franchise, after 2002’s SUM OF ALL FEARS (with Ben Affleck).


So why DOES this character fail to win in the reboot scenario? Equally, WHY do we WANT the franchise to even exist, let alone win a James Bond style reinvention? The character is not that interesting in terms of who he is, so much as for what he DOES. Ryan is basically an American apple pie family man every-man, spliced with an almost impossible set of perfect CV ticks (Wall Street trader; veteran Marine; Military Historian; CIA analyst).



ben ryan



Indeed, in the books, Tom Clancy’s writing frequently overdoes and thereby oversells the ‘Jack is a good guy’ narrative. Ryan loves his wife and kids. He basically wants to do the right thing. He is ever the reluctant hero. James Bond he aint! The guy shoots terrorists IF they threaten his family; ditto drug-lords / double agents et al should he be the only man that can do so in some plot contrivance. The books ARE still good thrillers, many of which deserved a proper adaptation before they did the sub Bond/Bourne origin reboot stories. Clancy’s own Ryan prequel: RED RABBIT was far finer and once again would have made a great period piece.


clooney ryan


Equally, EXECUTIVE ORDERS: an almost prophetic political pulp masterpiece. Published in the mid 1990s, the book foresaw, almost to the letter, the events now facing us in the middle east. There was talk of making that movie with GEORGE CLOONEY back in 2011. That would have made sense. MUCH more sense than the failed reboot.


Imagine Clooney doing his elder statesman bit: cerebral yet still ‘in action’ in at least one scene and in a big popcorn film but with the kind of political intrigue that fascinates both Clooney and indeed audiences. His final bow perhaps, before attempting to run for the White House in real life as well as reel life? File under: Opportunities, missed. But Clooney made TOMORROWLAND. Go figure. Bet he’s KICKING himself now, as are Team Jack Ryan.






So what’s the REAL reason perhaps that both Hollywood powers AND some faithful fans would welcome any new Jack Ryan film? Even after two failed reboots? Put simply, some of the OLD movies are so darn good! HUNT FOR RED OCTOBER: an atmospheric end to the Cold War on film, with Alec Baldwin showing us what his traditional leading man might have been like had he played that game longer. Baldwin turned down sequels and was replaced by HARRISON FORD: a man who excels at playing academic action men with just that hint of the common touch that gives the character accessible charm.






Ford did PATRIOT GAMES (1992) and then 1994’s CLEAR AND PRESENT DANGER. Clancy bitched about Ford’s age but the actor was still at a peak. He is OLDER here, sure. But not ‘old old’. Could easily pass for a man of 40something: veteran hero yet still credibly young enough to be mentored (in this case by James Earl Jones’ Admiral Greer).




It’s a similar position to Tom Cruise of late (cf: MISSION:IMPOSSIBLE – ROGUE NATION). A movie star tries other things for a bit or hits a bit of a slump as they reach 50. They then buck up their ideas, cop on and get back to doing what they do best for at least a decade to come. Like an older cat with a steroid injection!

It’s certainly more fun watching Ford punch bad guys than it was watching him try awkward facial ticks in an Oscar bid (REGARDING HENRY) or with a silly haircut, swearing a lot despite being a ‘litigator’ (PRESUMED INNOCENT). Ford’s Jack Ryan is understated yet VERY compelling and credible and it’s one of the reasons his films in this series stand the test of time..


Here’s NICK CLEMENT reminding us of why CLEAR AND PRESENT DANGER is so great. Take it away, MR CLEMENT. Because ‘TRUTH NEEDS A SOLDIER’ ..



No question about it – Clear and Present Danger is my favorite Jack Ryan film. I’m a fan of the series in general, but this is the one that I really enjoy the most, and upon repeated viewings, the one that stands up the best as the years have progressed. I’ve long been fascinated by how director Philip Noyce has made big studio actioners like this one and Patriot Games and Salt and The Saint and The Bone Collector, but then he throws in really personal work like the masterpiece Rabbit Proof Fence, Newsfront, The Quiet American, and Catch a Fire.



Harrison Ford never picks up a gun and still manages to save the day, the screenplay was both intelligent and action packed (further proof that those two things can simultaneously occur). The supporting cast are impossibly good. It’s almost insane: HOW did they assemble such a great ensemble?




A standout here is Henry Czerny: he who would go on to menace Tom Cruise’s Ethan Hunt in 1996’s MISSION:IMPOSSIBLE.  Henry became the go to guy for government bureaucrats and company men in 90s movies. But I last saw him I think in an awkward PINK PANTHER cameo!




This is also a WILLEM DAFOE movie. He’s both antagonist and ally to Ford’s Ryan and it’s a great double-act: unlikely yet effective. Such a shame they never reunited and that Dafoe never ended up with the mooted spin-off movie for his character. A screenplay draft of WITHOUT REMORSE was written but never filmed.



Donald McAlpine’s muscular widescreen cinematography is sensational, and the film boasts one of the all-time great action set-pieces, the SUV’s vs. RPG’s assault that was almost equaled by Peter Berg in his underrated thriller The Kingdom. Did you know that same scene is also a part of many a training simulation for real-life Diplomatic Security Officers?



We also get a great pan piped score from James Horner (RIP) rounding out every single scene, and the fluid editing from Neil Travis harkening back to the classical stylings of the mid 90’s studio action picture.


It’s a dialogue heavy, literate, cerebral and rewarding thriller for grown-ups. You know: those kinds of films that they USED to make yet simply DON’T anymore? Hence..THROWBACK THURSDAY! 



‘The machine is still on, Moira’

‘You know Jack..computer theft is a VERY serious crime’

‘Yeah..so are crimes against the constitution. YOU’RE GOING TO JAIL, PAL!

‘oh You’re SUCH a boy scout. You see everything in black and white.’

‘NOT black and white. RIGHT AND WRONG!’. 


After spending close to a decade working in Hollywood, Nick Clement has taken his passion for film and transitioned into a blogger and amateur reviewer, tackling old, new, and far flung titles without a care for his cerebral cortex. His latest venture,Podcasting Them Softly, finds him tackling new ground as an entertainment guru, and along with his spirited partner Frank Mengarelli, are attracting some diverse and exciting talent to their site. Some of Nick‘s favorite filmmakers include Michael Mann, Martin Scorsese, Tony Scott, Oliver Stone, David Fincher, Werner Herzog, Terrence Malick, and Billy Wilder, and he’s a huge proponent of the “31 Flavors of Cinema” school of thought. Favorite films include The Tree of Life, Goodfellas, Heat, Back to the Future, Fitzcarraldo, Zoolander, Babe, and Enter the Void.





28 June 2022

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