Stars: Harrison Ford, Willem Dafoe, James Earl Jones, Anne Archer, Joaquim de Almeida, Miguel Sandoval, Ann Magnuson. Written by Donald Stewart, Steven Zaillian, John Milius. Directed by Phillip Noyce. Rated PG-13 for violence, adult themes.

What would summer be without a Harrison Ford flick? "Clear and Present Danger", the third of Tom Clancy's techno-thrillers to be adapted to the big screen, marks the return of Ford as CIA analyst Jack Ryan. It use to be that a new "James Bond" film was launched every other year for the summertime crowd but, in their absence, we have been given an entirely more intelligent alternative. Instead of an endless parade of gizmos and beautiful women being used by a wise-cracking Bond (the next one being Pierce Brosnan, ewwww!), we are given an everyman hero who uses extreme measures only with great reluctance.

The film opens with the capture of ship by the U.S Coast Guard. On board the ship are two members of a Colombian drug cartel and the bodies of the ship's owners whom they have slain. Edward Bennett (Donald Moffat), the president of the United States, calls for drastic measures in the ever-escalating drug war. This he can't do officially so he drops the appropriate clues to his intentions to James Cutter (Harris Yulin), his national security advisor.

Cutter takes the initiative and has Robert Ritter (Henry Czerny), the CIA's deputy director of operations, establish a covert operation in which a small group of U.S. special forces are deployed to Colombia. The operation will be funded with money secured from a Congressional committee by Jack Ryan, who takes over as the CIA's deputy director of intelligence in the absence of the seriously ill Admiral James Greer (James Earl Jones). Of course Jack doesn't yet know about the illegal actions being taken by his government.

When Jack does eventually deduce what has been going on, Cutter and Ritter are forced to terminate the operation, leaving for dead the troops who remain in Colombia. They cut off all communications between themselves and their Colombian operative, a CIA field agent known only as Mr. Clark (Willem Dafoe), in an attempt to distance themselves from the ensuing turmoil. This prompts Jack to head on down to South America to see what he can do to rescue the stranded soldiers.

Better than competent but unexceptional "Patriot Games", "Clear and Present Danger" is the thinking man's thriller. Although the style and cast changed drastically between "The Hunt from Red October" and its successor, I'm happy to note that the new cast has been preserved right down to Ryan's wife (Anne Archer) and daughter (Thora Birch). All involved do an impeccable job of acting and the production is as polished as it is seamless.

With a two hour-plus running time, "Clear and Present Danger" gives you the most bang for your summer buck. It's a consistently exciting and thoroughly satisfying piece of entertainment.

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