Patriot Games  (1992)


Starring: Harrison Ford, Sean Bean, Anne Archer
Phillip Noyce

Rating: R

Studio: Paramount

Review Posted: 4.30.03

Spoilers: Minor


Reviewed by Dennis Landmann




His days as an intelligence agent behind him, former CIA analyst Jack Ryan (Ford) is caught in the middle of a terrorist attack on Lord Holmes, a member of the Royal Family. Ryan helps to thwart Holmes' assailants and becomes a local hero. However, Ryan's courageous act marks him as a target in the sights of the terrorist Sean Miller (Bean) whose brother he killed. Now Ryan must return to action for the most vital assignment of his life: to save his wife (Archer) and daughter (Thora Birch).




The second installment in the Jack Ryan series replaces Alec Baldwin with Harrison Ford, a much more bankable star. Patriot Games continues the life and work of the CIA analyst previously on a mission to find a Russian submarine in The Hunt for Red October. In actuality, however, Patriot Games is a prequel and for the sake of simplicity and Ford’s casting the film plays like a sequel. Tom Clancy’s novels tend to run at great lengths and usually book to film adaptations leave out or compress information. The script by W. Peter Iliff and Donald Stewart is tightly paced in structure, but the film tends to slow down at two or three spots. Despite that minor weakness, director Phillip Noyce (Dead Calm) takes the script and orchestrates a very decent thriller involving action, drama, and excitement.


The story now involves Ryan and his family personally, which gives off a sense of importance and urgency. Ford plays the character with much sincerity and carries the film on his shoulders. The relationship with his family plays very well so when the subsequent danger they are faced with intensifies, so does the emotion for the viewer, in my case at least. The technology used in the film to track an IRA militant group is pretty neat, especially the accuracy of it. A lot of Patriot Games is a cat and mouse game between Ryan and Miller, which is where most of the excitement comes from. The film has its share of moments including several clever and well-executed scenes.


The last twenty minutes, which involves the climactic boat chase, are too predictable. The cat and mouse formula, if you want to call it that, is reduced to mere action based on impossibility. It should be noted that two different endings were filmed. The alternative ending involving Ryan and Miller fighting on large rocks in the middle of the stormy sea instead on a burning, speeding boat. Common sense dictates fighting on a speeding boat is impossible, so what is wrong with fighting on rocks? Anticlimactic is the reason, but rocks make more sense. Nevertheless, Patriot Games is a smart thriller. Its cat-and-mouse approach works and creates excitement. If you like The Hunt for Red October, you might enjoy this one to an extent, but it depends on the individual.


7 out of 10


The Video


Patriot Games comes in an all-new anamorphic widescreen transfer from Paramount. The print looks as clean as can be, without any major discrepancies or faults. Some minor dirt spots are visible at times. Darker scenes are handled well and daylight scenes always shine. The color palette is very effective as dictated by many different locations, whether it is the desert, the CIA headquarters, Ryan’s house, etc. I noticed no artifacts or compression problems. This transfer is clear and mostly clean.


8 out of 10


The Audio


Paramount presents Patriot Games in two different tracks, English Dolby Digital 5.1 and English DTS Surround. Both tracks are impressive and use the speaker system. Explosions make the difference here, but while there aren’t many, they still come across as exciting and round. The dialogue is loud and clear. James Horner’s film score comes across in great strides as the rear speakers pick up. The final action/chase sequence will make your front speakers jealous. While these instances occur, the overall surround usage is lacking. Patriot Games offers a good presentation with its share of moments. Also included is the audio option of French Dolby Digital Stereo.


9 out of 10


The Extras


Patriot Games Up Close – The main attraction are the all-new cast and crew interviews. Harrison Ford joins Phillip Noyce and Producer Mace Neufeld as they reflect on the production. Behind-the-scenes footage is also included, as well as an explanation on an alternate ending. It is interesting to watch and is worth checking out right after finishing the film. Up Close runs approximately 26 minutes.


You also get the Theatrical Trailer, but that’s it. It would have been nice to hear Phillip Noyce talk about this film as John McTiernan did on The Hunt for Red October release, but I guess the documentary speaks for itself in a one-sided sort of way. In addition, English and Spanish subtitles are available. The menus are somewhat animated and navigation is easy. The 116-minute feature is organized into twenty-two chapters. This DVD is the definite version of Patriot Games and I think the subtitle Special Collector’s Edition signifies just that, despite the lone special feature.


5 out of 10




Patriot Games is exciting and tense most of the time. Harrison Ford and Sean Bean create very relevant characters and emotions. Phillip Noyce’s direction and a smart script make this an intriguing drama with moments of good action. The video and audio transfer comes in a good presentation and despite only one special feature the DVD is recommended. Rent it.


Overall DVD Rating: 7 out of 10 (not an average)






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