Clear and Present Danger, as with its predecessors Patriot Games and Red October, comes to UK Region Free Blu-ray with what looks to be exactly the same 1080p High Definition video presentation (in the movie’s original theatrical aspect ratio of widescreen 2.35:1) that the US received 3 years ago. Marrying up to Patriot Games more than Red October in terms of visual results, Clear and Present Danger is yet another DNR victim, it’s otherwise stellar presentation brought down several notches by a natural-film-grain-sapping over-use of noise reduction which robs some of the detail from the image and occasionally gives the characters a rather obtrusive plastic-like sheen to their visages (Dafoe suffers the worst).
In every other respect the transfer is extremely good: the colour scheme is rich and vibrant, the exotic south American locales (some shot on location) boast deep greens, the sun-drenched villas rich with yellows and oranges, and skin tones, DNR notwithstanding, having an extremely healthy outward appearance. Interior shots are also good, rich brown mahogany and lavish creams taking up the bulk of the duty in the Oval Office, and blacks strong and deep so as to allow for excellent shadow detail and solid night-time shots.
Indeed, aside from the complete lack of grain – which is just unheard of in a pre-digital movie made some 17 years ago – and the other side-effects of over-zealous DNR application, there’s only a hint of haloing and edge enhancement to add to your list of faux-pas in what is an otherwise very good release. It certainly makes for an unquestionable upgrade over the previous, fairly lacklustre SD-DVD release, and fans should be more than pleased in that respect, even if the end result is far from perfect.
The accompanying Dolby TrueHD 5.1 track is also identical to the one provided on the 2008 US release, but that is not such a bad thing as it was pretty damn good to begin with. Dialogue comes across clearly and coherently throughout, and as this is such a dialogue driven affair, this is what dominates the frontal array for the vast majority of the proceedings. Effects are well-observed too (thankfully, considering that the movie was nominated for Best Sound and Best Sound Editing Academy Awards), from boats cutting a swathe through the water to helicopter blades slicing through the air, from RPGs blowing up SUVs to automatic gunfire – both the atmospheric ambient noises and the louder, more explosive offerings are given great presentation, creating a superb soundscape within your living room, and bringing all of the more exciting moments to life. The score, again irrespective of how you feel about Horner’s plagiaristic tendencies, is an important component of the proceedings, also adding to the tension and enhancing the action set-pieces no end. Unfortunately, irrespective of dynamic surround usage, and clarity of dialogue, there’s simply not quite enough rear usage, even during the more explosive sequences. The LFE channel also does not provide the film with that warm undercurrent that you may have wanted, instead merely coming to life during the infrequent action moments. Aside from these two minor niggles this is an otherwise good offering, obviously shy of demo quality, but still an impressive upgrade from DVD nonetheless.
After the reasonably solid extras of Red October’s release, things went quickly downhill with Patriot Games, and the disappointing pattern for lack of extras continues here, with Clear and Present Danger coming boasting just a small Cast and Crew Interview featurette entitled Behind the Danger, which may be nearly half an hour long, but feels little more than a succession of back-patting interview snippets from all those involved in the production. Where’s the background into the differences between the book and the film? Where is the detailed Commentary expounding director Noyce’s experiences on the film? Thoroughly disappointing, this is a fluffy, throwaway excuse to not label this as a bare-bones disc. Oh yeah, and we also get the original theatrical trailer.
The better of the two Harrison Ford-starring Tom Clancy / Jack Ryan adaptations, Clear and Present Danger manages to combine dense but engrossing plotting and both dialogue-driven and action-driven tension in a commendable effort to do justice to the mammoth bestseller – one of the most successful of all Clancy’s books (and also one of the longest). With Ford cementing his place in a role that he always felt perfect for, as well as a solid supporting cast, the film was only let down by a marginally miscast Willem Dafoe as fan-favourite character John ‘Rainbow Six’ Clark and a slightly anticlimactic action-finish, overshadowed by the unparalleled excellence of the mid-film ambush, which remains a high point in the whole Jack Ryan series. It is a shame that Ford did not return to the role for the third movie that he was optioned for, as, for a short while, it seemed like Jack Ryan was a rising star in the cinematic super-spy big league.
This recently released Region Free UK Blu-ray appears to be identical to the three-year old US release, boasting the same decent audio but DNR-afflicted video, as well as the same distinct shortage of extras. Fans of the film will still have to pick it up though – it’s a clear-cut upgrade on the DVD – and newcomers who like a decent, well-crafted, intricately-woven political spy thriller should consider this a superior offering, driven by the ever-watchable Ford in one of his best roles and peppered with memorable scenes and snappy dialogue. One of the high points in the Clancy film series.
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