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Category:    Home > Reviews > Action > Thriller > Spy > Espionage > Cold War > Political > The Jack Ryan Collection (Hunt For Red October/Patriot Games/Clear & Present Danger/Sum OF All Fears/Blu-ray/Paramount)

The Jack Ryan Collection (Hunt For Red October/Patriot Games/Clear & Present Danger/Sum OF All Fears/Blu-ray/Paramount)

 

Picture: B†††† Sound: B†††† Extras: C+/C-/C+/D†††† Films: B-/C/B/D

 

 

For w while there, it looked like Paramount and Tom Clancy would have a spy franchise to rival the James Bond films, if only they could hold things together.Jack Ryan was a very interesting character, one of the more well-realized CIA agents anywhere and the books were a hit.When The Hunt Of Red October went into production, the Cold War was about to end, though no one knew it.The captain was played for two weeks by Klaus Maria Brandauer, but the studio decided to replace him with no less than Sean Connery.Alec Baldwin would play Ryan and the film was on its way and John McTiernan (Die Hard) turned in one of his better directorial efforts.

 

The result was a surprise hit in early 1990 and one of the better submarine films (with U-571 being on the lesser side and the likes of Crimson Tide and the underrated K-19 Ė The Widowmaker being the few after that worked) Connery gives one of his most underrated performances and the result is a film that holds up very well.There is the noticeable cheap visual effect at one points since they ran out of time and money, but very little of it has aged badly and with a supporting cast that includes Scott Glenn, James Earl Jones, Sam Neill, Joss Ackland and then actor Fred Thompson giving fine performances, it is the kind of solid blockbuster Hollywood used to make all the time before such films became outright stupid too often.

 

Just as it looked like Baldwin would go on to do a whole series of these films, he shocked Hollywood by bowing out of the series, though his career eventually recovered critically and after The Shadow did not work out as was hoped.All were further shocked when no less than Harrison Ford was landed as his successor as Ford was at the top of his game, but unfortunately Patriot Games (1992) where Ryan takes on IRA terrorism and his whole family (including the underused Anne Archer) is put in jeopardy as a result.Unfortunately, the usually savvy Phillip Noyce turned in a tired, formulaic pseudo-thriller with no edge or energy, following a feel-good pseudo-patriotic 1980s formula that was lame.The box office was disappointing, especially considering Fordís presence.Sixteen years later, post-9/11, this is really bad.

 

Fortunately, Noyce and Ford reunited for Clear & Present Danger (1994) in what is the best film in the series, involving a truth to power plot including drug kingpins, CIA operations, secret backroom deals, the breaking of federal law and echoes of wrongdoing that go to the highest echelons of that power.A bigger hit than Fordís first outing, the film holds up very well thanks to a strong screenplay by Donald Stewart, Steven Zaillian and John Milius, as relevant now as it was when it first arrived.Willem Dafoe, James Earl Jones, Henry Czerny, Harris Yulin, Donald Moffat, Joaquim de Almeida, Ann Magnuson and Thora Birch also star.

 

Because of its political leaning and ageism in Hollywood, Ford would experience the first backlash of his career and the next film did not materialize despite the money the last film made.Clancy himself started to publicly come out against he series, calling it B-movie material at best.He was correct in the case of Games and may have been saying this for purely political reasons in the case of Danger and Fordís perceived liberalism, so Ford eventually moved on and the franchise seemed dead.Then they turned to Clancy (who almost penned a Magnum, P.I. film for his friend Tom Selleck) and they started up the series again with a third Jack Ryan.

 

This time it would be Ben Affleck and the resulting film, The Sum Of All Fears (2002) would not only be an outright disaster as a film, but its attempt to be 9/11 relevant was a joke, almost an insult and the film rightly bombed.In its plot about a Soviet revival, it is even more embarrassing in the face of the August 2008 Russian invasion of Georgia, but the Paul Attanasio/Daniel Pyne (and Pyne has fared much better with the likes of White Sands, which seems more like a fluke on his resume now) script is a wreck, including a nuclear explosion that wipes out a U.S. city and an ending which conveniently ignores the event and worse.Affleck was a scapegoat for this junk project and though he slept-walked through it, he was far from the only problem.Though it was written before 9/11 (Muslim terrorists were replaced with another enemy) and this wrapped post-9/11, it was left a mess just the same.All this is why this series mercifully ended.

 

 

As many of you may know, all four films were intended for issue in the HD-DVD format and though the set was cancelled, some boxes did manage to reach the press, including us.One reason is because it was it was missing the few extras on each film the box said were included.The other is that the films looked and sounded bad.

 

The 1080p 2.35 X 1 digital High Definition image in all four cases still have their problems and are slightly cleaned up versions of the previous masters, but I have seen all four on 35mm film and they all look better than this.The first three look like aged prints from older HD masters, while the fourth has some more clarity, but still has detail and depth issues throughout and all but the fourth were shot in real anamorphic Panavision.The last one was in lesser, cheaper-looking Super 35mm film.

 

As for sound, each film is offered in Dolby True HD 5.1 mixes and lesser Dolby Digital as well.Ironically, when Dolby Digital was introduced to the consumer via 12Ē LaserDiscs, the first disc to offer the 5.1 AC-3 signal was the Laser of Clear & Present Danger.That and Sum are digital 5.1 films, while the first two were Dolby 70mm mag stereo 4.1 sound mixes that could only be heard originally in 70mm blow-ups of the film.In all four cases, the sound disappoints considering how good TrueHD can sound.The first three films sound second-generation, too compressed and lack the soundfield they should have.October and Danger have better soundfields than this.Sum is the newest film, only slightly more dynamic, yet the soundfield sounds choppy and incomplete.What happened?The titles got caught up in a remastering mess and the format war.They will need to be redone down the line.

 

Extras include a trailer and making of featurette on all four releases, while October has an audio commentary by John McTiernan and Fears adds two audio commentary tracks with Robinson (one where Clancy joins him for some odd reason, the other with cinematographer John Lindey) plus a visual effects featurette.

 

 

-†† Nicholas Sheffo


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