Patriot Games (US - BD)
Gabe begins to practice his Jack Ryan finger pointing with master Harry Ford
We’re back with more Jack Ryan versus terrorist action. This time Jackie’s played by a gruff and grimacy Harrison Ford, and instead of malevolent Cold War Ruskies he’s fighting the I.R.A., or more specifically an ultra-violent sub-faction of the I.R.A. When Ryan shoots and kills the brother of one of the faction’s leaders (played with angsty gusto by Sean Bean) during a political assassination, his family becomes an unlikely target. Once again, our hesitant hero must go forth into the breach and do the right thing.
Patriot Games is my personal favourite among the gracefully aging Jack Ryan series. The first three films in the series— Hunt For Red October, Patriot Games and Clear and Present Danger—represents the best of a brand of thriller that came out of the post-Desert Storm era, when war and terrorism weren’t quite so close to our doorsteps. These films (along with others, most produced by Jerry Bruckheimer) were slicker then the gritty political thrillers of the ‘60s and ‘70s, and less polarizingly violent than those of the ‘80s. These days that whole September 11th thing has changed the model, and the way audiences look at these films, so in a roundabout way Patriot Games might actually represent the ‘apex’ of the type—sort of.
There isn’t much negative to say about Patriot Games beyond its occasionally episodic and convoluted plot, both things that come with the Tom Clancy political thriller territory. Overall I’d say it’s the best of the Clancy films because it has the strongest story, and though I’m sure there are a whole lot of factual inaccuracies in the text, the whole thing feels very genuine. Director Phillip Noyce has a lot of good stuff to work with, and his generally workman like style crafts a tight and unassuming film. There isn’t a lot of flash, but Noyce has a really effective grasp of visual storytelling that tells a rather technically detailed tale without too many words or confusion. Noyce’s one fully brilliant sequence is the film’s biggest action scene, one where SAS takes out an entire terrorist camp. The brilliance is the way the scene is shown, which is all in satellite infrared, creating an eerie, almost sad scene from what one would expect to be a noisy and exciting one.
I tease Ford’s super-serious finger pointing, but I also think this is some of his best work. Unfortunately the character ended up defining his entire career for years (with the exception of The Fugitive, which I’d call his last great roll), and he’s since become ‘that grouchy old dude who use to be cool’. Sean Bean’s tumultuous Sean Miller is an effectively pitiable villain, but just like Ford, the popularity of the roll was a mixed blessing, because he found himself playing similar bad guys for the next decade (even Boromir is an angst-ridden pseudo villain). The supporting cast is refreshingly even-handed. There aren’t a lot of hams in this sandwich, though the flavour’s a bit on the archetype side.
Just like Red October, there isn’t a lot of obvious improvement over the DVD release. The general details are moderately sharp, but there’s some obvious middle and background detail loss, including blur and line doubling. There is some edge enhancement, but general compression artefacts are minimal. Colours are slightly duller then expect, and skin tones are a bit on the red side. Black levels are generally deep, with a twinge of noise, and contrast is smooth and realistic. I’d probably say this is the weakest of all the Jack Ryan collection transfers, but not by a very blatant margin.
Patriot Games doesn’t share a whole lot of specific continuity with Red October, but composer James Horner continues the first film’s use of the traditional music of the ‘villain’s’ culture. Red October has a distinct Russian influence, and Patriot Games carries an Irish influence. The suspense cues are a little overdone by today’s standards, but work very well. This Dolby TrueHD track isn’t a huge improvement on the original DVD release, but it’s generally louder, and a little wider in breadth. The dialogue is even, clear and centred, and the lively stereo channels don’t over run it. Most of the big surround moments are devoted to the score, as the action is generally not of the bombastic type, but I found myself consistently impressed by incidental noise like passing cars.
‘Patriot Game Up Close’ is a decent mini-doc that was also available on the special edition DVD release. The director, producer, screenwriter, and some of the actors are all interviewed, and they take us smoothly through the process of making the film, including the hiring of Ford after Alec Baldwin left the project, Ford’s input into the project, and the filming of the bigger action scenes. The featurette features behind the scenes footage and photos, is presented in anamorphic, standard definition, and runs about twenty-five minutes.
The only other extra is an HD version of the original trailer.
I still hesitate to call Patriot Games a classic, but I can’t deny how invigoratingly entertaining it is. I’ve seen it about a million times thanks to a healthy weekend television rotation (seriously, it’s on like, every Sunday), but I rarely take the time to think about it. In fact, I’m pretty sure just about everyone reading this Blu-ray review has also seen the film on television at one time or another, and you probably skipped to the A/V and extra parts of my review. Or maybe you skipped to this bit, in which case I say again: the A/V is incredibly average, and the extras are nothing new.
* Note: The images on this page are not representative of the Blu-ray release.
Review by Gabriel Powers
Under 17 requires accompanying parent or adult guardian
Release Date: 29th July 2008
Disc Type: Blu-ray Disc
Audio: Dolby TrueHD 5.1 English, Dolby Digital 5.1 French, Dolby Digital 5.1 Spanish
Subtitles: English SDH, English, French, Spanish, Portuguese
Extras: Making of Featurette, Trailer
Easter Egg: No
Director: Phillip Noyce
Cast: arrison Ford, Anne Archer, Patrick Bergin, Sean Bean, Thora Birch, James Fox, James Earl Jones, Richard Harris
Length: 116 minutes
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