After The Hunt for Red October earned $200,512,643 worldwide, Paramount saw the makings of a franchise, so the studio decided to make some changes. Most notably, Harrison Ford replaced Alec Baldwin as Dr. Jack Ryan. For Ryan’s wife, Anne Archer as Dr. Catherine Ryan replaced Star Trek Next Generation’s Gates McFadden as Caroline Ryan. This wasn’t as noticeable, because Ryan’s wife only appeared in a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it-scene in The Hunt for Red October. At the time there were a lot of rumors as to why Alec Baldwin was replaced, but no real definitive answer– Baldwin was asking for too much money; Paramount contended that it was a scheduling conflict and Baldwin did indeed star as Stanley Kowalski in a Broadway production of A Streetcar Named Desire during Patriot Games‘ principal photography–Whatever the reason, the very bankable Harrison Ford took over the role of Jack Ryan.
Patriot Games finds Jack Ryan (Ford), having left the CIA and enjoying a career as a professor at the Annapolis Naval Academy. As Patriot games opens, he’s taken his wife (Anne Archer), and child (Thora Birch), to London where he’s to attend a conference as a guest lecturer. During the trip he finds himself in the middle of a plot to kill a member of the Royal Family. Ryan leaps into the action and manages to kill one terrorist and wound another, whom is captured by the British police. The captured IRA terrorist is Sean Miller (Sean Bean) and the man killed was his brother. When a daring rescue gives Miller his freedom, Jack and his family are in immediate danger. The terrorist doesn’t think twice about crossing the Atlantic, and visiting the area surrounding Washington D.C. and Annapolis, Maryland to exact revenge on Jack Ryan and his family for taking his brother’s life.
After an attack on his wife and daughter, Jack´s former CIA supervisor, Admiral James Greer (James Earl Jones), manages to talk Jack into returning to the CIA. Jack and his team scour the globe with satellite technology and intelligence to find where Sean and his assassins may be hiding. They hit a terrorist camp in Africa, but it quickly becomes clear that Sean is not among them and that perhaps the attack on the Ryan family was directly caused by Miller. Unfortunately for Ryan, the Royal who he saved, Lord William Holmes (James Fox) comes to America and decides to visit Jack personally for saving his life. The visit only creates the perfect opportunity for Sean to attempt revenge for the death of his brother.
Director Phillip Noyce and screenwriters W. Peter IIiff and Donald Stewart did an excellent job of crafting a film built on equal parts intelligence and action. One of the things that makes Patriot Games such an appealing movie, is the use of military technology and brainpower, instead of a lot of special effects gimmickry. Instead, the excitement comes from events that one could image happening in a CIA agent’s life. There are still a few great action scenes to keep thing moving, and climactic face-off between Ryan and Miller is a great capper to the film.
As a big fan of the Jack Ryan films, picking a favorite is really hard for me to do. Patriot Games is one I really enjoy, and the one I think I’ve seen the most times (at least 15). The movie is written to be a sequel to The Hunt for Red October and not a prequel as the books´ timeline has the story fall. There were also several changes made to the story for the film. As a result, some Tom Clancy diehards may find a few things to dislike about Patriot Games. However, at the end of the day, Patriot Games is a highly intelligent action drama that should entertain most adult fans of the genre.
The BD is a 2.35:1 AVC / MPEG-4 encoded transfer. The definition is solid and colorful, but there is a very thin veil of graininess throughout the sixteen-year-old film. The audio is presented in Dolby TrueHD 5.1.
The only major extra on the BD edition of Patriot Games is the documentary “Patriot Games Up Close” (25:14). This is an above average making of feature that explains how the two Harrison Ford Jack Ryan films were done together, and how the undertaking occurred from start to finish. Harrison Ford, Phillip Noyce, Charles H. Maguire and others lend a few moments to talk about the film. The only other feature provided on the disc is the theatrical trailer.
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