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MOVIE INFO
Synopsis:
Harrison Ford stars as Jack Ryan in this explosive thriller based on Tom Clancy's international best-seller. His days as an intelligence agent behind him, former CIA analyst Jack Ryan has traveled to London to vacation with his wife and child. Meeting his family outside of Buckingham Palace, Ryan is caughtiin 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. But Ryan's courageous act marks him as a target in the sights of the terrorist whose brother he killed. Now Ryan must return to actioni or the most vital assignment of his life: to save his family.

Director:
Phillip Noyce
Cast:
Harrison Ford, Anne Archer, Patrick Bergin, Sean Bean, Thora Birch, James Fox, Samuel L. Jackson
Writing Credits:
W. Peter Iliff, Donald Stewart, based on the novel by Tom Clancy

Tagline:
Not for honor. Not for country. For his wife and child.
MPAA:
Rated R.

DVD DETAILS
Presentation:
Widescreen 2.35:1/16x9
Audio:
English Dolby Digital 5.1
English DTS 5.1
French Dolby Surround
Subtitles:
English, Spanish
Closed-captioned

Runtime: 116 min.
Price: $19.99
Release Date: 5/6/2003

Bonus:
• “Patriot Games Up Close” Documentary
• Theatrical Trailer


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RELATED REVIEWS


Patriot Games: Collector's Edition (1992)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (April 28, 2003)

While many film series change lead actors after a while, I can’t think of many that did so as quickly as the Jack Ryan flicks. Sean Connery stuck around as Bond for five flicks before he jumped ship, and at least Michael Keaton made it through two Batman movies before someone else took on the role.

The only modern and high profile competition for the Ryan series comes from the Clarice Starling character. Jodie Foster played the role in 1991’s The Silence of the Lambs but bailed by the time they made its sequel, 2001’s Hannibal. Julianne Moore took on the part in the second film.

While that recasting probably created more of a ruckus, I still think the change from Alec Baldwin in 1990’s The Hunt For Red October to Harrison Ford in 1992’s Patriot Games remains a startling alteration. (As we hear elsewhere on this DVD, it apparently occurred because Baldwin decided to work in a play instead of the film.)

The lead actor didn’t offer the sole change between October and Patriot. Not only did Jack suddenly get about 16 years older, but also his wife changed names from “Caroline” to “Cathy” and she went from being British to becoming an American! Star Trek: The Next Generation’s Gates McFadden played “Caroline” during a “blink and you’ll miss her” spot in October; the character literally appeared onscreen for no more than five seconds. Anne Archer took over as “Cathy” in Patriot and played a much more substantial role. (Unfortunately, the DVD’s extras never relate why the filmmakers changed this part and performers.)

One other interesting difference exists between Patriot and the other Ryan flicks. Whereas October earned a tame “PG” and both Clear and Present Danger and The Sum of All Fears nabbed “PG-13” Only “R”-rated Clancy flick – all others “PG-13” or “PG” ratings, Patriot stands alone as the only “R”-rated Ryan piece.

I wish I could say that the movie merits an “R” for hard-bitten action and a rougher tone than the others, but that’s not really true. Frankly, I think it got the “R” just because it tosses around the “F”-word three or four times; the violence in Patriot Games doesn’t seem particularly bloody or nasty. It aspires to becoming brutal and direct, but while it offers a generally solid tale, it doesn’t quite achieve its goals.

At the start of the film, Ryan is in London with wife Cathy and daughter Sally (Thora Birch, another actor change from October). While Jack delivers an address, the females tour the city. As he goes to meet them, terrorists attack the car that contains Lord William Holmes (James Fox), the Queen Mother’s cousin and the Minister of State for Northern Ireland.

The heroic Ryan intercedes and foils the apparent assassination attempt, and he kills Paddy Miller (Karl Hayden) along the way. Paddy’s protective older brother Sean (Sean Bean) gets arrested but not before he takes a long look at Ryan and clearly begins to internally plot his revenge on the man who snuffed his brother.

While Ryan recuperates and the police interrogate Miller, we see additional actions of Sean’s cohorts. Sexy Brit Annette (Polly Walker) seduces and then murders IRA Brigade Commander Jimmy O’Reardon (Jonathan Ryan) and she then accompanies the gang’s leader Kevin O’Donnell (Patrick Bergin) out of the area.

After Ryan testifies at Miller’s trial, the family returns to Annapolis Maryland. Jack quit the CIA and now works as a professor at the Naval Academy. Unfortunately for him, his pals bust Miller out of jail during transport. Jack’s old boss Admiral Greer (James Earl Jones) warns him of this and entreats him to return to the CIA, but Jack resists.

The terrorists wind their way toward America, where they have a few different missions in mind. Foremost for Miller, he plans to take down Jack and his family. We see their attack on the Ryans and its aftermath, an incident that puts Jack in the mind of revenge himself. To get back on top of things, he returns to the CIA and takes charge of this case. The rest of the film follows his attempts to nab the terrorists as well as their various plots and nastiness.

At its best, Patriot Games provides a taut thriller. The film’s strongest scene comes with the car chase midway through the flick. Director Phillip Noyce executes it in a clever and engrossing manner that makes it thrilling and tense. I especially like the amusing way that the baddies’ pursuit briefly gets halted.

Unfortunately, he doesn’t often repeat that tone elsewhere in the movie. At 116 minutes, Patriot is the shortest of the four Ryan movies, but it feels like the longest, partially because it lacks much of a narrative. Essentially it’s just an extended revenge piece. The parts of the plot related to the IRA and Northern Ireland feel gratuitous and have almost nothing to do with the overall theme. Perhaps those elements blended better in Tom Clancy’s original novel, but here they seem pointless.

Actually, the Irish factors make Patriot appear both simplistic and excessively convoluted at the same time. While the movie’s plot remains simple, the different Irish elements cause much confusion and ultimately don’t make much sense. They aren’t well drawn or cleanly delineated, and they make the movie more of a chore to watch than they should.

Perhaps the filmmakers hoped those pieces would distract from the drabness of the various characters. Ford did better with the role of Ryan in Clear and Present Danger. In Patriot, he doesn’t quite seem to grasp the character’s non-violent nature. Ryan is supposed to be the quiet guy forced into aggressive situations, but here Ford makes him look a bit too forceful. The more passive tone came across much more effectively later, but in Patriot, Ford doesn’t get the personality fully.

None of the three main terrorists ever distinguish themselves. Perhaps after the presence of such a dynamic antagonist in Red October the filmmakers felt they should dial the baddies back a notch. They went too far, unfortunately, as this flick’s crew don’t make much of an impression. It seems like a surprise to feel so dispassionately toward them, especially since the actors behind the roles have talent. To be sure, Bean made a much more substantial impression as the villain in 1995’s Bond flick GoldenEye, so his bland personality here comes as a surprise.

I don’t want to convey the impression that I distinctly dislike Patriot Games, for I don’t. The movie gets a bit more interesting in its second half, and the climax offers some good drama, though it goes on far too long. While it seems moderately entertaining, Patriot simply fails to become anything more than that, and it doesn’t compare favorably with the other Ryan flicks.


The DVD Grades: Picture B+ / Audio A- / Bonus C+

Patriot Games appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 2.35:1 on this single-sided, double-layered DVD; the image has been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. I never saw the original 1998 non-anamorphic release of the film so I can’t compare the two. However, I can state that this new anamorphic transfer suffered from few problems and mostly looked very good.

Sharpness remained a consistently successful element. The movie displayed a nicely distinct and detailed appearance at all times. Even during wide shots, I noticed no issues caused by softness. I witnessed no signs of jagged edges or moiré effects, and unlike the other three Ryan flicks, I detected no examples of even slight edge enhancement. In regard to print flaws, the image occasionally looked a little grainy, and I also saw occasional examples of speckles and grit. These concerns didn’t seem problematic, however.

While Patriot didn’t feature a terribly expansive palette, it nonetheless mustered clean and efficient colors. The hues came across as appropriately dynamic and bright and demonstrated no overt concerns. Overall the tones were well saturated and vivid. Black levels appeared bold and taut, but shadow detail caused some small issues. Some “day for night” shots looked a bit opaque, and other low-light sequences were somewhat murky. Nonetheless, I felt pleased with the image of Patriot Games as a whole, and it earned a solid “B+”.

Even better were the Dolby Digital 5.1 and DTS 5.1 soundtracks of Patriot Games. Although I gave both of them the same “A-“ grade, I did think the DTS mix slightly edged out the Dolby one. I’ll offer general comments that apply to both first and then related the differences I perceived.

The soundfield seemed vivid and immersive. Though the movie lacked the number of broad audio opportunities heard in the other three Ryan flicks, it still got in its fine demo moments. Gunfights offered expansive material, and the car chase heard partway through the film brought my system to life. The flick’s extended climax worked best of all. It took place during a well-illustrated thunderstorm and featured a lot of different elements that created a vibrant and broad sense of place.

Quieter moments functioned nicely as well. The score displayed effective stereo imaging, and the audio always gave us a smooth feeling of atmosphere even when it didn’t kick into high gear. Some directional speech occasionally popped up as well. The surrounds acted as strong partners in the mix and featured a lot of useful unique elements.

Audio quality sounded more than satisfactory. Dialogue came across as natural and crisp, and I noticed no instances of edginess or problems related to intelligibility. The moderately percussive score banged along with fine clarity and range and seemed nicely robust. Effects appeared clean and accurate. They never suffered from distortion, and they always remained tight and vivid. Bass response equaled the expected level of depth and tightness and added strong pop to the proceedings. All three of the other Jack Ryan DVDs earned “A-“ grades for audio, and Patriot Games didn’t buck that trend.

As I mentioned earlier, although I gave both the same “A-“, I preferred the DTS soundtrack. While both were very solid, the DTS mix sounded a little more dynamic and involving. Bass response was tighter and more powerful, and the soundfield blended marginally more smoothly. Again, these improvements remained pretty small, but I still liked the DTS audio just a little better.

Only two extras appear on this special edition DVD. We find the movie’s theatrical trailer - presented non-anamorphic 2.35:1 with Dolby Digital 5.1 audio – and a new documentary called Patriot Games Up Close. This 25-minute and 15-second program offers the standard combination of movie clips, a few archival materials and shots from the set, and new interviews with producer Mace Neufeld, director Phillip Noyce, actors Harrison Ford, James Earl Jones and Anne Archer, screenwriter Peter Iliff and associate producer Liz Kern.

They cover how the producers choose to do Patriot after Red October, the departure of Alec Baldwin and entry of Harrison Ford, bringing in Phillip Noyce, altering the script to accommodate the casting change, locations, dealing with a middle-aged action hero, filming stunts, the Admiral Greer character, and shooting the desert attack sequence and the film’s climax. Though similar to the documentaries on the other Ryan DVDs, I thought this one displayed a little more flair, and it came across as the most compelling of the bunch. It delved into some intriguing material and did so in a reasonably engaging and taut manner. “Up Close” worked well to communicate the film’s challenges, and it gave us a concise and informative discussion of the movie.

Too bad Patriot Games remains my least favorite of the four Jack Ryan films. It feels like an oddly distancing piece that doesn’t draw in the viewer terribly well. Professional and moderately entertaining, Patriot just doesn’t deliver the goods on a consistent basis. The DVD provides very solid picture and sound, however. It also includes a pretty interesting documentary, though it skimps on extras overall.

For those new to the Jack Ryan series, I’d urge them to start somewhere else. Patriot Games is the movie to get when you’ve seen the rest of them first. At least I can endorse this generally positive DVD. Because I never saw the prior release, I can’t firmly state that it marks enough of an improvement for fans who own that disc to upgrade to this one. However, based on my experiences with the other Ryan DVDs – and with Paramount’s older non-anamorphic discs – I think it’s very likely that the image quality here marks a step forward.

Viewer Film Ratings: 4.1666 Stars Number of Votes: 24
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