|Patriot Games (Special Collector's Edition)|
|Written by Abbie Bernstein|
|Tuesday, 06 May 2003|
1992’s “Patriot Games” is a sort of sideways-sequel to the submarine hit “The Hunt for Red October.” The film marked the big-screen return of novelist Tom Clancy’s hero, C.I.A. analyst Jack Ryan, but Jack came out of “Red” as Alec Baldwin and has become Harrison Ford for “Games.” Ford subsequently reprised the role in “Clear and Present Danger,” while most recently, Ben Affleck took it on in last year’s “The Sum of All Fears.” Jack is always the same character, but only “Games and “Danger” share much sense of continuity with one another.
As “Games” begins, Jack has resigned his C.I.A. commission – much to the relief of his loving wife Kathy (Anne Archer) and young daughter Sally (Thora Birch) – but he’s pulled back into the cloak-and-dagger world when he instinctively jumps into harm’s way to foil an assassination attempt against a British royal. The British government is grateful, but the Irish Republican Army splinter group whose plans have been thwarted want to achieve their original goal. Furthermore, their triggerman (Sean Bean) is keen to avenge the death of his teenaged brother, killed by Ryan during the skirmish.
There’s a lot of good action in “Patriot Games,” courtesy of shrewd director Philip Noyce. Chapter 3, where Jack saves the day and kick-starts the plot, has a vital, intense energy in its staging of bodies and cars in motion. Chapter 8 has a fairly startling escape sequence and Chapter 11 has an excellent car chase (set on the East Coast, but actually shot in Los Angeles, according to the bonus features documentary). Chapter 18 has a still-visually-striking of x-raylike satellite footage of an attack on a terrorist camp, as Jack watches horrified but transfixed by the abstract representations of real-time loss of life.
The DTS track on the DVD has powerful sound, but very little if any front to back discretion – even on scenes with big explosions, nothing feels like it starts in the mains and ends in the rears. Chapter 3 has a pretty convincing explosion, though the pipes in the soundtrack music were a bit screechy on my system. Chapter 4 has solidly realistic automotive sounds. Chapter 5 contains the gorgeous music piece “Harry’s Game” by the Irish folk band Clannad, originally composed for a little-seen U.K.-made film about the I.R.A. and subsequently popularized here in Volkswagen commercials. It remains one of the best bits of film/TV composition you’ll ever hear and is utilized expertly here. The same chapter also contains a powerful gunshot hit, though this is followed by a few moments where there seems a bit too much ambient air in response. Chapter 11 has some very strong fist-against-flesh sound effects and fine rolling impact when cars crash – the sound achieves real dimensionality here, even if it’s more left to right than front to rears. In Chapter 15, rifle training moves convincingly from side to side in the speakers and Chapter 19 has lifelike glass crashes and thunder blending together to confuse the frightened characters.
For something advertised as a “collector’s edition,” the “Patriot Games” disc seems a little short on extras. There’s a pleasantly informative retrospective documentary featuring comments from the cast, along with director Noyce, producer Mace Neufeld and screenwriter Peter Iliff, the theatrical trailer, the option of DTS vs. regular Dolby 5.1. There’s nothing wrong with any of these features, but the “collector’s edition” designation usually implies a bit more – an audio commentary track would have been nice.
Director Noyce has not only a great sense of pacing but also a sure feel for which points to emphasize and which ones to underplay. He’s assembled a potent supporting cast – notably Archer, Bean, then-child Birch, James Earl Jones as Jack’s C.I.A. mentor, Richard Harris as a canny spokesman for the mainstream I.R.A. and James Fox as the somewhat fuddled royal who has benefited from Jack’s heroism. Noyce and actor Ford make a terrific team – Jack Ryan comes across as heroic but human. When Jack wells up because his family is in danger, it’s based in character, not (as in some other entries in this genre) a this-time-it’s-personal cue.
In fact, Ford, Noyce’s direction and the snappy script by Iliff and Donald Stewart, based on Clancy’s novel, are the best reasons to watch “Patriot Games,” as together, they make Jack Ryan the best kind of companion to have on adventure/thriller like this.