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Introduction
Harrison Ford is widely accepted as one of Hollywood’s true action movie greats with a plethora of successful mainstream feature films behind him. Particularly memorable are his roles in big movie franchises such as Star Wars and of course Indiana Jones but let us not forget his other big action franchise – playing ex intelligence agent Jack Ryan. After the hugely successful debut of the Ryan films with The Hunt For Red October it was pretty much a dead certainty that we’d be seeing future Ryan adventures. What wasn’t so certain was the right actor for the job. Although Alec Baldwin started the ball rolling with Red October it wasn’t long until he was replaced by Ford. Officially this was because Baldwin wanted to pursue a job on Broadway but perhaps the more likely reason is because Paramount wanted somebody a little more guaranteed to pull in the punters. Either way, in the latter half of 1992 along came Patriot Games promising thrills aplenty. Does it deliver? Read on...

Patriot Games: Special Collector's Edition
Movie
Based upon the international best-seller by Tom Clancy, Patriot Games tells the story of former CIA analyst Jack Ryan. Now a professor at the Annapolis Naval Academy he finds himself on a vacation to jolly ole England where he is also due to attend a conference as a guest lecturer. His wife and child meanwhile decide to spend this time doing a little sight seeing and they agree to meet up later on that day. However, things are about to take a horrific turn for the worse when all three of them are inadvertently caught in the middle of a terrorist attack by a rogue splinter group of the IRA. Led by fanatical leader Sean Miller (played by Sean Bean) the attack focuses on a motorcade containing extended members of the Royal Family but thanks to the courageous intervention of Ryan - the attack fails. In the process Miller is captured, but not before witnessing the death of his younger brother at the hands of Ryan. As a result of Ryan’s intervention, he becomes the next target and must return to action for the most vital assignment of his life: to save his family.

Right from the outset I had heard of author Tom Clancy’s dislike of this movie adaptation. Having now watched the film in its entirety I can perhaps understand why. Although the performances from the major players are comparatively strong, the pacing of the film is all over the shop. Initially the film starts strongly enough with a brief background on Ryan before throwing you into the midst of the terrorist attack on London. From here on in though the film slows almost to a complete halt and brings in far too many characters to help pad the wafer thin script.

Patriot Games: Special Collector's Edition
The performances as I have already briefly touched upon are strong. Harrison Ford picks up the baton from Alec Baldwin and copes admirably with the task. Patriot Games is in many ways about family and Ford portrays a loving, caring father and husband convincingly. It was always his intention to make Ryan a reluctant hero rather than a suicidal action hero and that’s part of the reason that the character works so well. Performances from the supporting cast are also strong, most notably from James Earl Jones as Ryan’s mentor Admiral James Greer. He’s a powerful presence onscreen and it’s great to see him playing off of Ford in some of the tenser scenes littered through the film. The only disappointing performance comes from Sean Bean as the man out to get Ryan. The first thing you’ll notice about his performance is the more than questionable Irish accent. It isn’t the easiest accent to master so why they decided to give the role to a Londoner is beyond me. When speaking in his native tongue, Sean Bean can play a very convincing bad guy (look at Fellowship of the Ring) but his performance here just doesn’t do enough to save the character from being anything other than a two dimensional killing machine (with a dodgy accent).

Overall then, Patriot Games isn’t quite the bang you’d expect from Harrison Ford’s first foray into Ryan territory. The action sequences are merely adequate and the villain isn’t really as scary as he should be. Topping things off is an incredibly predictable script dressed up with characters that don’t really do much to serve the plot. Still, it does have a few saving graces; mainly in performances. Harrison Ford puts in a very watchable performance as the father looking out for his family and it was also great to see the late Richard Harris onscreen again as Paddy O'Neil.  

Patriot Games: Special Collector's Edition
Video
Paramount Home Video have put together a 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen presentation here, which reflects the original aspect ratio of the film. Up until now Patriot Games was only available in non anamorphic form so this anamorphic presentation is without a doubt a significant improvement and a welcome upgrade. The original release was a fine display of picture artefacts, and thankfully most of these are also laid to rest with this new release. The transfer isn’t completely without problems though. I did notice a certain degree of edge haloing but certainly nothing that would lead to distraction. Overall, this is a pretty decent transfer considering the film is well over ten years of age. Good job Paramount!

Audio
The audio tracks are without a doubt the selling point of this package. Up for grabs on this release are both English 5.1 Surround and English DTS Surround tracks. I wasn’t really sure what to expect here so I was definitely in for a bit of a surprise. Although the Dolby Digital 5.1 track isn’t much of an improvement over the original release, the DTS track is really quite thumping! The surrounds are used extensively without going overboard and help to create a truly involving soundstage. I was particularly impressed with the opening gun battle with bullets literally flying all around the room (well, it certainly felt like it anyway!) Despite the activity of the track, voice clarity is never intruded upon and everything is clear and concise as you could possibly want it to be. Overall, a surprisingly involving soundtrack, as long as you can support DTS!

Patriot Games: Special Collector's Edition
Extras
Considering this release is labelled as a Special Collector’s Edition there isn’t a great deal included on the disc feature wise. Making up the main portion of the package is a twenty-five minute featurette entitled ‘Patriot Games Up Close’. Thankfully it doesn’t conform to the usual ‘promotional fluff’ standard that so many studios put out these days and instead provides some pretty compelling viewing. The main selling point of the feature would have to be the newly recorded interviews with the cast and crew. All of the major players are here and between them they divulge some interesting facts on how the film initially came about as well as one or two major decisions they had to make along the way. One thing that particularly interested me was that they reshot the ending, as the original didn’t test very well. I didn’t think much of the theatrical ending either so I hate to think how bad that one was!

The only other feature included here is the theatrical trailer for the film which is presented in 2.35:1 non-anamorphic widescreen. The trailer runs to a little over two minutes and thirty seconds and comes complete with a cheesy eighties voiceover! Gotta love those voiceovers!

Patriot Games: Special Collector's Edition
Overall
Overall then I found Patriot Games to be a disappointing second adventure for Jack Ryan. Although Harrison Ford puts in a solid and believable performance he is let down by a poorly paced and predictable script. It isn’t all bad though. The film does have one or two memorable scenes and Paramount have done a decent enough job for this to warrant a small dent in your wallet. Technically the disc is way above average with a vastly improved transfer and a surprisingly active soundtrack.


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