Paramount Home Entertainment / 1992 / 121 Minutes / Rated PG-13
Street Date: December 15, 1998
When The Hunt for Red October earned $199.2 million worldwide, Paramount smelled a franchise. So, the studio decided to make some changes. To portray Jack Ryan, Harrison Ford replaced Alec Baldwin. For Ryan's wife, Anne Archer as Dr. Catherine Ryan replaced Star Trek Next Generation's Gates McFadden as Caroline Ryan (or did Jack Ryan get a divorce and remarry?). There were rumors circulating at the time that Baldwin was demanding too much to reprise the role; Paramount contended that it was a scheduling conflict. I've always wondered if the studio was uncertain whether Sean Connery's Marko Ramius was more responsible for Red October's success than Alec Baldwin's Jack Ryan, prompting them to go with a more bankable actor. Patriot Games earned a bit less, a very respectable $178 million worldwide, and remains an effective action drama.
Dr. Jack Ryan has left the CIA; he's now a professor at the Annapolis Naval Academy. He's taken his family to London to attend a conference as a guest lecturer. As they sightsee, they suddenly find themselves caught in the middle of a violent attempt to kidnap some extended members of the Royal Family - Lord Holmes (James Fox) and his wife - by a rogue splinter group of the IRA. An ex-marine, Ryan instinctively attacks one of the attackers, snatches one of their weapons, kills one kidnapper, and captures another, one of the group's leaders, Sean Miller (Sean Bean). Wounded, Ryan is hailed as a hero. But the man Ryan killed was Miller's teenage brother, and Miller becomes obsessed with destroying Ryan's life.
Miller is tried and convicted, and is being transported to prison when his fellow terrorists rescue him and brutally execute the British escorts. They escape to an unnamed African location where the group has established a desert training site and a base of operations. Miller's cohorts focus on their political goals, but he can't. He must have his revenge. He insists on traveling to the States with a team of thugs to assassinate Ryan, his wife, and his small daughter.
Thanks to Ryan's agile mind (and perhaps a touch of paranoia) he escapes, but his family is less fortunate. Catherine crashes her Porsche, peppered with automatic arms fire, into a guardrail, critically injuring her and their daughter. Ryan realizes that he must return to the CIA to use its resources to track down Miller. He also wins a reluctant ally with a threat of bad publicity. The Sinn Fein spokesman, Paddy O'Neil (Richard Harris), needs to distance his group from the splinter faction, and eventually provides the key to Miller's location. This is a brutal game of chess, move and countermove, as the antagonists escalate the violence.
Patriot Games features less of Tom Clancy's signature technology than within any of the three Jack Ryan films. The only such sequences involve satellite photographic imaging and real-time satellite thermal imaging of an attack on a terrorist camp. Patriot Games is a more personal conflict between Ryan and Miller, which eventually plays out during a nighttime raid on Ryan's remote, beachfront home on the Maryland coast.
Yes, the characters make some dubious choices. Yes, Clancy did criticize this adaptation. But Ford offers a solid performance as a cerebral analyst capable of using force when provoked. Sean Bean is excellent as the barbarous and obsessed terrorist. Anne Archer, Thora Birch (the Ryans' daughter), James Fox, James Earl Jones (reprising Admiral James Greer), and Samuel L. Jackson all provide effective support. Despite a few lapses in pace, Director Phillip Noyce keeps the audience involved. As an action/adventure/thriller, Patriot Games is recommended.
Video: How Does The Disc Look?
The film's 2.35:1 theatrical aspect ratio is presented in 4:3 letterbox video. I don't know exactly why, but some DVDs in this format are even more vulnerable to jaggies than others. Maybe there're many more near-horizontal lines than within some other films. Patriot Games is such a title. The DVD is very watchable, but I find Moire patterns on suit jackets just a little distracting. I also suspect that they used an existing D2 master. (I find it encouraging that Paramount has announced its return to the anamorphic video mode for some of its upcoming releases.) Patriot Game's fleshtones, colors, noise levels, lack of digital artifacts are all excellent
Audio: How Does the Disc Sound?
The audio is available in Dolby Surround English and French, and Dolby Digital English. The AC-3 audio is excellent. Rich bass extends deep into the bottom of the spectrum, although I found it interesting that James Horner's dramatic score has a stronger bass line than the sound effects. The dialog is always clear and never overwhelmed by the score or sonic effects. One peculiar note: the film's AC-3 sounds like it was mastered from Dolby Surround original elements. I detected no left/right differences in the surround channels. Yet during he trailer, all five channels were clearly discrete, with pans or effects from either surround channel quite obvious.
The DVD starts with prolonged copying warnings and proceeds to the opening menu. You must manually select Dolby Digital 5.1 from the set up menu. (Sigh of frustration.) There are 22 chapter stops. English and Spanish subtitles are included.
Supplements: What Goodies Are There?
The 2.35:1 trailer offers the same image quality as the film, but (as mentioned) with better 5.1 sound.
DVD-ROM Exclusives: What do you get when you pop the disc in your PC?
No ROM extras have been included.
Patriot Games is arguably better than the original, but is just a mediocre DVD. Fair video and audio and no real supplements makes this one hard to recommend given the $29.95 list price.