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PATRIOT GAMES
Blu-ray Edition

Film review by Gordon Justesen
Technical specs by Michael Jacobson

Stars: Harrison Ford, Anne Archer, Patrick Bergin, Sean Bean, Thora Birch, James Fox, James Earl Jones, Richard Harris
Director: Phillip Noyce
Audio: Dolby TrueHD 5.1
Video: Anamorphic Widescreen 2.35:1
Studio: Paramount
Features: See Review
Length: 116 Minutes
Release Date: July 29, 2008

“Where are you taking me, Marty?”

“It’s you who have taken us, Jack…into battle.”

Film ***

Following the success of The Hunt For Red October, it was decided that the next Jack Ryan story to make it to the screen was the one which focused solely on the character’s personal life, rather than a mission he had somehow found his way to. Patriot Games, perhaps the most brutal of the Tom Clancy novels in terms of its violence and suspense, is indeed a tale of a struggle against an undying force of evil that threatens Ryan and his family. It was also revealed that Alec Baldwin would not be returning to the role of Ryan due to a choice to be on Broadway at the time. So when his replacement turned out to be none other than Harrison Ford, you could almost smell a surefire success of a movie.

With Ford now in the role of Jack Ryan, he has convincingly aged since we last saw him. He is now retired from the CIA and is now teaching at the Naval Academy in Annapolis. The movie’s central plot involves that of modern-day terrorism and, in particular, the threat that has been placed on the Ryan family after a brutal incident in downtown London, where the family is vacationing. As he is walking to meet his wife, Cathy (Anne Archer), and daughter, Sally (Thora Birch), Jack witnesses before his very eyes an attempt on the lives of the Royal Family by what appears to be the Irish Republican Army.

After saving his wife and daughter from being wounded by a car bomb, Ryan jumps head first into the gunfight, thwarting the terrorists plot and killing one of them in the process. With a couple of terrorist members managing to escape, the remaining fanatic, Sean Miller (Sean Bean), is immediately arrested. As it turns out, the man Ryan shot dead is Sean’s younger brother, who was recruited by his older brother and on his first assignment. This places Ryan high on Miller’s death wish list.

After immediate sentencing from a British Court, thanks largely to Ryan’s testimony; Miller is soon broken out of prison transport by his cohorts, led by Kevin O’Donnell (Patrick Bergin). Now that he has escaped, the only thing rummaging through Miller’s head is the notion of exacting revenge against the man who killed his brother, even though the main focus of his terrorist faction is the Royal Family. Nevertheless, Miller and his cohorts track Ryan to his home in Maryland, with the intention of wiping out Ryan and his family from the picture. Jack survives his hit attempt, but his wife and daughter aren’t so lucky, as a shootout on a freeway results in a brutal accident.

With his loved ones fighting for their lives in ICU, Jack is forced back into his old stomping grounds in Langley, where he vows to bring this terrorist faction down. Here is where the movie gets extremely intriguing, as Ryan discovers a state of the art way of tracking terrorists at undisclosed camp sites through the use of stalactite surveillance systems. The scenes where Ryan and others observe live video footage of a military raid through heat-seeking images is quite astounding. What then follows is a stand off between Jack and the terrorists at his home, which looks over the stunning Chesapeake Bay, followed by a climatic boat chase. Even though this sequence is well staged and executed nicely, it feels somewhat tacked on.

Of all the Jack Ryan movies, Patriot Games is actually my least favorite of the four, but it is still an intriguing ride of a movie, and it doesn’t dare to be dumb at all. It just manages to fall short of the phenomenal suspense that was present in Hunt For Red October, The Sum of All Fears, and Clear and Present Danger. I still commend the movie for its endless smarts and high-tech intrigue, as well as the decision for someone like Harrison Ford to step into the role of Jack Ryan.

Video ***1/2

This is a solid Blu-ray offering; maybe not quite up to full high-definition expectations, but pretty close.  Images are clearer and detail level is higher, but there's still a touch of grain here and there, and the colors, while generally bright, don't have the same pop as some newer titles.  But for a film of this age, there are no real complaints.

Audio ***

The Dolby TrueHD soundtrack is lively and offers good dynamic range and clear dialogue throughout.  It doesn't have quite the full surround punch as some of the other offerings in this series.  But overall, it serves the film quite well.

Features **

All that is really included is a nicely done, but un-lengthy featurette, “Patriot Games: Up Close”, and a trailer, but I guess that’s because this is all that could be provided for this particular release.

Summary:

Patriot Games serves up the action and suspense well for this second installment in the Jack Ryan Collection, and also gets a good bonus from the presence of Indiana Jones himself in another memorable action hero role.

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