Of the Jack Ryan trilogy of films, two (this and Patriot Games) were scored by James Horner, the third (and best of the films) Hunt for Red October was scored by Basil Poledouris. While everyone (including myself originally) seems to be very keen on the latter, I have recently become somewhat unimpressed with Poledouris' efforts, even though there are a couple of pretty good tracks, often it just becomes a bit uninteresting. Horner didn't really fare much better. Patriot Games is often cited as the worst James Horner score ever. While I wouldn't necessarily agree with that conclusion (Unlawful Entry would get my vote), it is not a very inspired score. Clear and Present Danger is considerably better and makes for an generally very entertaining listen even if it is riddled with more than the average amount of plagurism. The main title is a rousing brass fanfare type thing, very simple in structure, but with a suitable amount of nobility to it and setting the tone pretty well. Probably the best cue is The Ambush which is a very effective and exciting action cue that reaches a frenzied peak as in the final third. On the way, little hints of Aliens, Red Heat and others appear and so there is always the nagging feeling that you've heard it before somewhere. Horner's dreaded pan pipes are used as a rhythmic device quite effectively and are never overtly intrusive.
The Laser Guided Missile features a curious ethnic sounding section at the opening and that works very well indeed with perhaps the only similiarity I can find being with the synth ethnic material from Goldsmith's Rambo 2. Looking for Clues uses the infamous Gyanne (spelling?) ballet suite that was used as the opening title by Horner for Aliens. The annoying thing is that it's a very haunting (genuinely!) piece of music and I rather like it. Deleting the Evidence is a prototypical Horner suspsense cue that uses clicking percussion, the odd piano crash and so on, nothing spectacular, but it is a lot more interesting to listen to than the vast majority of suspense music even if Horner realises this and ends up using it every score that requires music of this nature. Greer's Funeral is, as expected, a generally sombre affair with a mournful brass/horn elegy with quiet strings and snare drum, decently composed even if it's not especially moving in the long run. After yet more action and suspense the end title (curiously subtitled Truth Needs a Soldier - um, what exactly does that mean?) reprises the main theme and expands it into a very Apollo 13 or Ransom -like noble brass effort which, it must be said is extremely rousing without resorting to nauseating patriotism - at least not to David Arnold levels of flag waving.
Something of a mixed back really. There are probably more little hints and nods to many other Horner scores and that is more distracting than usual since it happens frequently and consequently little of the score sounds fresh or imaginative, even if the synth ethnic motif is interesting as well as unusual. Perhaps the Jack Ryan films didn't inspire either Horner or Poledouris much since I'm sure they can't have been that bad to score. If given the choice I'd probably pick this as a favourite of the three simply becuase it's jolly exciting and as an album is never really dull since the suspense is well constructed and so even the slack moments have more than enough musical interest to sustain them. On the other hand, it's a collage of styles and compositions and as such I can't really give it a very high rating. Give it an extra star if you're ultra forgiving.
Read other recent reviews by Tom Daish: The Snow Files: The Film Music of Mark Snow
, The 7th Voyage of Sinbad