The Hunt For Red October, Patriot Games, and Clear and Present Danger on 4K UHD Blu-ray
Jack Ryan 5-Film Collection is now available on 4K Blu-ray. Please note the screenshots used in this article are Blu-ray sourced, not from the 4K transfers.
With a new Jack Ryan series on Amazon Prime and more Clancy on the way to screens — Michael B. Jordan was recently announced to star in a new franchise as another beloved character, John Clark — the “Clancyverse” property is starting to catch fire again after a couple of lesser appreciated films (stay tuned for Part 2 where I’ll cover those).
I’m a longtime reader of Clancy who was once a big fan, but became a bit disillusioned. I loved his novels and his commitment to a world of characters like Jack Ryan and John Clark, but with time his name ceased to hold any meaning — “Tom Clancy” became little more than a brand, mostly used on militaristic video games, and even new books that bore his name in huge letters were no longer written by him. Similarly, I enjoyed the original Jack Ryan movies when I was younger (and a bit action-starved) but returned to them a few years ago and found them kind of boring and lacking in action, with their focus on intrigue and espionage. I despised The Sum of All Fears which axed the series continuity, and didn’t even bother with 2014’s “yet again” reboot, Shadow Recruit.
But with the new release of all 5 films in the Jack Ryan 5-Film Collection on 4K Blu-ray (and rediscovering some reverence for Tom Clancy, who passed away in 2013), I decided to wipe the slate clean and watch all five films with new eyes, ignoring any fanboyism or personal prejudices and just taking them on fairly. What I found was that, now a little older and hopefully wiser, I really enjoy the political intrigue as well as the action. The short version: this is an incredible set of five great films and is absolutely worthwhile, especially in 4K. Here are my thoughts on the first three, which form a single continuity.
THE HUNT FOR RED OCTOBER (1990)
Director: John McTiernan
Both the first Clancy novel and movie, The Hunt For Red October introduced the world to CIA Analyst Jack Ryan (Alec Baldwin), a brilliant desk jockey and military vet who gets embroiled in a major international incident. A high-tech Russian nuclear submarine, capable of evading detection, is making a beeline for the US. Familiar with its Captain, Marko Ramius (Sean Connery), Ryan becomes convinced that the sub is on a mission not of destruction, but defection.
While Jack Ryan would soon become the unchallenged star of his stories, Red October is a bit different in that it’s first and foremost about the conflict, with Ryan sharing focus as co-protagonist with Marko Ramius. In the movie, Connery is clearly the star.
The two-headed film that emerges is a taut and suspenseful thriller in which Ramius tries to evade detection from both sides and dupe his crew at large into performing what amounts to treason, while Ryan must convince his superiors, starting with his boss Admiral James Greer (James Earl Jones) that his theory — which is just a theory — has validity, and that the best approach is not to engage with violence, but diplomacy. With no effective means of communication, this ultimately means flying out to the USS Dallas to arrange a sub-to-sub meeting with an unknown enemy, on the hope that that enemy is a friend.
Director John McTiernan is known for action first and foremost, with undeniable classics like Die Hard and Predator atop his filmography, but he handles this heady uthriller expertly, finding the excitement in diplomacy. The incredible cast also includes Sam Neill, Tim Curry, Joss Ackland, and Stellan Skarsgard among the Russian characters, and Scott Glenn, Fred Thompson, Richard Jordan, and Jeffrey Jones on the American side.
PATRIOT GAMES (1992)
Director: Phillip Noyce
Probably my favorite of the novels, Patriot Games also makes for a killer movie. Jack Ryan, now played by Harrison Ford, is in London for a speaking engagement when his family is suddenly beset by a gun battle on the street. On impulse, Ryan jumps into action and fights the attackers, killing at least one of them.
As it turns out, they were domestic terrorists putting a hit on members of the royal family, and Ryan is hailed as a hero. But foiled attacker Sean Miller, whose brother Ryan killed, swears revenge. Despite being arrested and sentenced, the mentally unhinged Miller is freed by his peers and vanishes, and soon after nearly succeeds in an attempt to kill Ryan’s wife and daughter (Anne Archer and Thora Birch).
Miller’s motivation — putting aside his politics in favor of revenge, is the film’s most unique angle. It’s probably the most straightforward of the films, and while it does have a lot of political themes, they take a backseat to the more straightforward narrative of fear and intimidation for a purely personal vendetta, countered by instinct of a good man to defend his family.
Miller’s threat sends Ryan back to the CIA, where he sets to his job with newfound vigor, leading the charge to destroy his enemy using all available intel, and leaning hard on a stateside IRA leader (Richard Harris) who might have critical information.
The sole R-rated entry in the franchise, Patriot Games is the most primal of the series, focusing on two evenly matched men, pushed to their limits, each vowing to destroy the other, culminating in an all-out attack on the Ryans and their friends (including pal Samuel L. Jackson) at a dinner party at their home. But despite being the darkest and most bloodthirsty of the films, it doesn’t betray the character or his values — it gives meaning to them.
CLEAR AND PRESENT DANGER (1994)
Director: Phillip Noyce
Both the director and star of Patriot Games returned for Clear and Present Danger, my favorite of the movies. This is the one that goes deepest into the mythology of the books, introducing two beloved recurring characters from the novels.
The slaying of an American tourist and his family by drug runners spurs the US President to crack down on the cartels, but this setup gives way to a deeper mystery — the murdered man, a friend of the President, was deeply embroiled in the drug business, and this was no simple random thrill kill.
With longtime friend and boss Adm. Greer (James Earl Jones) being ravaged by cancer, Jack Ryan finds himself promoted to his job — and immediately set up as the scapegoat in an elaborate and illegal war that goes all the way up to the top.
Ryan’s not the only victim of this political manhandling. In Colombia, this plot is affecting men in the field – fan favorite characters from the novels. American shadow operative John Clark (Willem Dafoe) has been tasked with deploying a team to destroy the operations of the cartels, including spec ops sharpshooter Ding Chavez (Raymond Cruz), and his commander (Benjamin Bratt). When the pressure of an illegal war gets too hot, all comms are cut off and the squad is abandoned and left to die with no support.
Make that one last line of support — Ryan heads down to Columbia and teams up with Clark on an unsanctioned mission to brings the boys back home, and clear his name in the process.
When I was younger I never really understood the film’s political corruption themes and just loved all the action stuff in the cities and jungles of Colombia, and the inclusion of recurring characters I knew from the books. Watching this now, I appreciate so much the theme of doing the right thing even when surrounded by deceit and corruption.
I posted an earlier unboxing pictorial which goes over the 4K release’s packaging in detail, which you can check out here:
These films look gorgeous in 4K, particularly since, as the Blu-ray screenshots in this article show, some of the previous discs were quite poor. Clear and Present Danger gets the clearest present update, while Patriot Games probably looks the most impressive overall. (Hunt For Red October continues to have a solid transfer, but was shot considerably softer than the other two so its upgrade is less noticeable).
The 4K discs are each dedicated to a single movie-only presentation, while all special features (except commentary) are housed solely on the Blu-ray discs.
Special Features and Extras — The Hunt For Red October
- Commentary by director John McTiernan
- Beneath the Surface (29:00) — Behind the Scenes Featurette
Special Features and Extras — Patriot Games
- Patriot Games Up Close (25:14) — Behind the Scenes Featurette
Special Features and Extras — Clear and Present Danger
- Behind the Danger (26:34) — Behind the Scenes Featurette
- Theatrical Trailer
Continue to Part 2: The Reboots
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All 16:9 screen images in this review are direct captures from the Blu-ray disc (not 4K) with no editing applied, but may have compression or resizing inherent to file formats and Medium’s image system. All package photography was taken by the reviewer.