25 October 2006 | bob the moo
A commercial thriller that lacks intelligence and ignores complexity but is still entertaining and provides good thrills on the Hill and in the jungle
When Admiral Greer is diagnosed with cancer, Jack Ryan finds himself as Acting Deputy Director of Intelligence at the same time as one of the President's personal friends is murdered by a Columbian drugs cartel. Despite the suggestion that his friend was involved in illegal money laundering the President gives the "unofficial" nod to National Security Adviser Cutter who falsifies a Presidential Order for Robert Ritter to employ a covert operation to strike at Escobedo's operations in Columbia. Meanwhile Ryan goes before the Senate to get funding for the fight on drugs although the funding does not include troops or direct action, which doesn't concern Jack as he is out of the loop on the covert op. While Jack tries to trace the money on the laundering, Clark's men get bombing in the Columbia jungle. However as things start to get out of control, political backs get covered, plausible deniability kicks in and both Ryan and Slater find themselves exposed and in danger.
Despite Ryan's outings in Patriot Games and Sum of All Fears being roundly average at best, I decided to try this film and I actually found it quite easy to enjoy. The first thing to state is that it is very safe and commercial thriller in that, for all its supposed commentary on corruption and drugs, it really doesn't say much and the good guys and bad guys are painted very clearly and the lines between them are clean. Those familiar with the much more interesting look at America and drugs presented in HBO's The Wire will not find the same level of intelligence or comment in this film. Of course this doesn't make this a bad film, but perhaps a weaker one. The plot uses these clear lines and turns in an enjoyable if basic mix of political drama and action thrills. I found myself quite gripped by some parts and the plot regularly throw up tough talking and action to keep things interesting.
Although Ford is already looking a bit older, he fits in perfectly on the "intelligence" side of the film but when he is called into action on the streets of Columbia then he doesn't look the part at all. Much better at this is Dafoe, who spends the majority of this in his own little action movie. He is convincing and was a good call for the role, although it doesn't help that the material calls for Ford to occupy equal status with him in the action stakes. Providing the political tough talk with good turns are Czerny, Yulin and Moffat each would have benefited from the script recognising the complexities of right and wrong but this wasn't the place for that. Almedia and Sandoval are both pretty average but they are handed half-cooked clichés to work with so it isn't really their fault.
Overall this is a perfectly serviceable commercial thriller and I have no doubt that those who accepted the problems in Patriot Games and Sum of All Fears will find this easy to enjoy. Personally I would have liked a bit more intelligence instead of the black/white approach but it still worked for what it was and it was effective in catching me up.