A tasty brew
This is one of two films based on clancy's novels which really work, the other being the hunt for red october. it is certainly far superior to patriot games in terms of plausibility and cohesion of narrative, quality of acting, exploration of central issues, and ultimate resolution of various conflicts. i do think the escape by helicopter from one drug lord's compound was overdone but the film concludes appropriately with ryan's final conversation with president bennett (donald moffatt) and then his arrival at the subcommittee hearing chaired by senator mayo (hope lange). i still would have preferred that alec baldwin continue as jack ryan but concede that harrison ford is far more credible in this film than he was in patriot games, perhaps because he and his colleagues were working with a much better screenplay, one on which john milius collaborated with donald e. stewart and steve zaillian. (it should be noted that stewart and zaillian also collaborated on the screenplay and must share at least some of the blame for patriot games' inadequacies. both films were also directed by phillip noyce, another accomplice.) having the president of the united states actively involved in danger's narrative gives it a unique substance, to be sure, but also affords valuable opportunities to explore moral corruption and political expediency at the highest levels of government. there are several outstanding performances, including moffatt's in a difficult role as is henry czerny's as robert ritter, deputy director of the c.i.a. and ryan's principal adversary; also willem dafoe as clark and harris yulin as cutter. anne archer reprises her do-nothing-but-beam role as cathy ryan, adoring wife; james earl jones also reprises his role as admiral james greer whose health problems deny ryan his mentor and friend's assistance when needed most. this is a "techno-thriller" in several respects but its special effects are almost never gratuitous. an important sub plot involves moira wolfson (ann magnuson) who is the f.b.i. director's administrative assistant and a key source of classified information which she provides to felix cortes (brilliantly played by joaquim dealmeida) whom she believes to be a reputable businessman, not knowing that he is a key operative for one of the colombian drug lords. wolfson loves cortes to death, literally. lots of well-staged action, including an ambush of the f.b.i. director and his entourage, another ambush of american troops in the jungle (a callous and bloody betrayal by their government), a missile attack on the drug lords and their families, and the final helicopter escape by ryan and clark. as in the hunt for red october, the story line sustains the film's momentum, aided by generally solid performances. i do not consider this film an indictment of any specific administration or foreign policy. clancy is primarily a storyteller, not a polemicist. the united states will continue to have clear and present dangers no matter who is in the white house. when this film was first released (in 1994), one reviewer suggested that it was inspired in part by some of former c.i.a. director william casey's elaborate schemes for secret operations against the drug lords. (i have no idea whether or not that is true.) in any event, i find this a thoroughly entertaining, well-made film and look forward to seeing it again.