The second film in the series of Tom Clancy spy-thrillers featuring CIA analyst Jack Ryan (Harrison Ford), crisply directed by Phillip Noyce, has the plot twists and gimmickry his fans expect, though the ending seems a bit far-fetched even by the standards of this reality-bending genre. If the events of September 11 have given pause to those who shrugged off Clancy's books as right-wing paranoia, they've also pointed up the limitations of the intelligence community for which he's been such a hyperbolic acolyte. Indeed, in the early days of the crisis, the CIA was forced by the press to acknowledge his exaggeration of its real-time satellite surveillance capabilities, as depicted in one of this film's most entertaining scenes. Jack Ryan, unlike most CIA analysts who never face as much danger as the average accountant, seems to be a veritable magnet for mayhem, here becoming the target of a vengeful IRA terrorist. To raise the stakes, his wife (Anne Archer) and child have also been placed in jeopardy, and by a perhaps intentional twist of casting, these symbols of domestic virtue have been rendered less glamorous than the terrorists, especially as played by the likes of Patrick Bergin and Polly Walker. Richard Harris, as an IRA gunman, offers a lively change from the film's predictable alternation of bureaucratic infighting and terrorist plotting, and his bar scene with Ford is the film's best. Yet, Noyce never lets the momentum flag, and up to the point where the bad guys unbelievably decide to hunt down Ryan on his home turf for a comic-book ending, one is willing to suspend disbelief. The excellent cast includes James Earl Jones, Sean Bean, James Fox, and Samuel L. Jackson.
by Michael Costello review