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Missing Review

Before there was the Iraq War, there was the Chilean coup. And before there was Daniel Pearl, there was Charlie Horman, who vanished one day in 1973 while it was all going down in a time of serious turmoil.

Like Pearl, Horman was a reporter -- or, at least, he wanted to be one -- which brought him to Chile during the violent upheaval in this troubled South American country. Martial law is in full effect: If you can't tell by the military officials and machine guns on every corner, then perhaps the piles of dead bodies -- some covered, some not -- might clue you in.

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Patriot Games Review

Very Good
Out with Alec Baldwin and in with Harrison Ford -- as CIA analyst Jack Ryan becomes caught up in an international incident again as he lectures in London, throwing so much action at us that we are meant to forget they switched the lead actors on us.

Turns out it doesn't matter much. Ford is of course a talented action/adventure hero, maybe the best ever. It's too bad that this Jack Ryan adventure has less epic-ness than Red October; it's written small, with Ryan caught up in an IRA attack on British bigwigs. After capping off a few of them in an impromptu streetfight, Ryan finds his family hunted down in America. Eventually -- of course -- he has to save them (using his litany of superspy tricks and tactics).

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Clear And Present Danger Review

Jack Ryan returns for a third outing in Clear and Present Danger, reuniting Harrison Ford's Ryan with director Phillip Noyce, who also directed Ford-as-Ryan in Patriot Games.

Too bad that with plenty of raw material (notably Willem Dafoe as an American mercenary working in Columbia), Danger comes up awfully short. For starters, what is our CIA hero doing poking around in the Colubian drug trade? Sure, he's rooting out a huge conspiracy that goes all the way up the U.S. political ranks, but must we be subjected to endless Latino stereotypes en route to that? Clancy is always at his best when he's dealing with terrorists or Russians. Here we have a plot (nearly 2 1/2 hours in length) that trots out the usual exploding drug factories and endless cartel assassinations. Ryan's escape from a troublesome mission is infamous for the bad guys' repeated inability to hit a near-motionless target.

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The Hunt For Red October Review

If any film in Tom Clancy's Jack Ryan series stands out as the best (or even a truly great movie), it's The Hunt for Red October. It was Clancy's first book starring the unlikely hero and the only film to star Alec Baldwin as Ryan. Baldwin does a great job here -- portraying Ryan not as a gung-ho commando, as Harrison Ford would interpret the role, or as a know-it-all brat, as Ben Affleck would shamefully turn in down the line.

Baldwin is perfect, but his sparring partner, Sean Connery, is even better. As a Russian sub captain defecting to the U.S. -- and bringing his titular, silent sub with him -- Connery turns in yet another memorable performance, full of ballsy gusto and cocksureness. Supporting players run the gamut from Sam Neill to James Earl Jones (the only real fixture in the Jack Ryan cycle) to Tim Curry.

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