The Jack Ryan Collection
Writer Tom Clancy’s avatar, an intellectual CIA agent yet reluctant hero, comprises "The Jack Ryan Collection," a quartet of dated movies, out right before the franchise reboots next year.
The four films are basically military-industrial complex recruitment propaganda (plus ego-strokers for some writers and producers, who appear in cameos). They are a time capsule of monochrome computer monitors, floppy drives, pagers, brick-sized mobile phones, CD players, lack of car airbags, board game-playing, CNN as the only news network, and the reading of actual newspapers and magazines (plus an awful lot of cigarette smoking, tea and coffee drinking, for some reason). Even the minimal extras are old-school, only offering theatrical trailers, director’s commentary, and simple behind-the-scenes interviews, all strangely scored with the same pseudo-patriotic music as the movies.
Skinny Alec Baldwin’s first big film role was the lead in 1990’s "The Hunt for Red October," a throwback to pre-perestroika Soviet/US submarine manoeuvers, featuring "men in confined circumstances under enormous pressure." Sean Connery’s Soviet-with-a-Scottish-accent Captain Ramius wants to defect with the Motherland’s latest technology, and is aided by Seaman Jones (enthusiastic Courtney B. Vance) and decent underwater effects (smoke and a gimbal) from fledgling Industrial Light and Magic.
Baldwin decided to do Broadway during 1992’s second Ryan outing, so Harrison Ford stepped in for "Patriot Games," aging him to about 50 and bringing his family (snooty Anne Archer and warm Thora Burch) more into the picture and into danger from Sean Bean and his IRA-splinter group (remember when terrorists were only in Ireland?). The screenplay is overly simplistic, and even director Phillip Noyce notes that the few women characters have the thankless job of being merely reactive.
"Clear and Present Danger" (1994) reimagines Reagan’s Iran-Contra scandal and Pablo Escobar’s South American drug trafficking empire (remember those quaint Columbian cartels? And the cute, clean bags of white cocaine, before crack and meth?). Ford returns as "the last honest man in Washington" and the forthright James Earl Jones completes his hat trick as Ryan’s mentor Admiral Greer. This script is also lame: "whoever did this to me is dead!"
Operative Liev Schrieber and Central Intelligence Director Morgan Freeman steal the show from 2002’s Ryan, fresh-faced Ben Affleck in the aerial-shot populated "The Sum of All Fears." This outing returns to the old US vs. Russia plot (remember how clear-cut things were during the Cold War?), this time facilitated by neo-Nazis and a recovered Israeli warhead. The biggest surprise is an actual detonation. Seeing a mushroom cloud over Chesapeake Bay is the culmination of these men and their phallic armaments.
"The Jack Ryan Collection"