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Paramount Studios presents
"You stuck your nose where it didn't belong. You killed my baby brother."
DVD ReviewThere was quite a bit of Hollywood casting chatter when Harrison Ford was tagged to replace Alec Baldwin in the lead role of on again/off again CIA man Jack Ryan in this, the second film based on a bestseller by technical military-thriller writer Tom Clancy. Baldwin did a solid job as Ryan in Clancy's The Hunt For Red October, and in a rare book-to-movie moment, actually seemed to be a fairly fitting visual translation of a literary character, both in terms of appearance, mannerisms and age. With the switch of lead actors for Patriot Games, the character of Ryan suddenly became not only much older, but also became a much larger, more identifiable action-film star, in the form of Ford's Indy/Han/Deckard persona.
While this move might have upset Clancy purists who were pleased with Baldwin's portrayal, the retooling elements of the script by W. Peter Iliff and Donald Stewart to accommodate Ford are rather seamless. The plot of Patriot Games seemed like an ideal vehicle to introduce Ford as the heroic (now former CIA analyst) Ryan, as the story is less military techno-thriller, and more of a traditional revenge saga. While visiting London with his wife Cathy (Anne Archer) and young daughter Sally (Thora Birch), Ryan finds himself saving a member of the royal family from a terrorist attack staged by a radical cadre of Irish militants. During the attack, Ryan shoots and kills one of the terrorists, who is also the younger brother of Sean Miller (Sean Bean), one of the attackers who is captured by authorities.
While there are some occasional moments of trademark Clancy high-tech detail, including a clinically chilling scene depicting infra-red satellite coverage of a military assault on a terrorist compound, the core of Patriot Games is Sean Miller's quest for revenge against the man who killed his brother. Miller's personal vendetta is what drives the film, causing Ryan to have to put himself and his family on the defensive as they become the targets of terrorists.
The implausibility of some of the scenarios notwithstanding, including a wild late night boat chase, this is more of a traditional action film about a man protecting his family from danger, and even with all the potentially flashy military hardware at hand, one of the film's biggest confrontation sequences takes place in a dark house on a stormy night. Director Phillip Noyce, who also helmed the Clancy followup Clear and Present Danger, stages some respectable action set pieces, like a particularly tense highway chase scene, and gives the film a Clancy-esque global feel by keeping true to form and leapfrogging the action from the U.K. to Ireland to North Africa to the U.S.
The casting of Ford may have ruffled feathers initially, but considering that at one point in Clancy's books Ryan actually becomes President (something Ford would ironically accomplish in the marginally silly Air Force One), hindsight makes the choice seem all the more ideal. Plus, it is hard to deny Ford's Everyman accidental action-star screen presence, and in Patriot Games he gets to do what he does best.
Rating for Style: B+
Rating for Substance: B+
Image Transfer Review: Paramount has issued this new collector's edition in 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen, replacing and markedly improving on the original nonanamorphic release of a few years back. Colors are particularly bright and well saturated, balanced by evenly rendered fleshtones. Black levels are solid and deep, which is key to the enjoyment of the film's largely dark final act. There is some evidence of fine grain, haloing and image ringing, but it is minor and relatively unobtrusive.
Image Transfer Grade: B
Audio Transfer Review: As is often the case, the difference between the included Dolby Digital 5.1 and DTS tracks are marginal, though the DTS seems to provide a bit more bass wallop. Both of these tracks appear quite similar to the remixed 5.1 on the original release, but in terms of clarity both mixes offer easily discernible dialogue and a noticeably full soundstage across the front three speakers. Rears are not overdone, but provide a few decent moments, while the LFE signal sends out some clean, deep rumbles during some of the more explosive sequences.
A French 2.0 surround track is also included.
Audio Transfer Grade: B+
Disc ExtrasFull Motion menu with music
Scene Access with 22 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English, Spanish with remote access
1 Original Trailer(s)
Extras Review: While there is unfortunately no commentary on this collector's edition, there is a better-than-average "making-of" entitled Patriot Games: Close Up (25m:13s). While there is still a fair amount of the usual gratuitous gladhanding to be found here from Noyce, Ford, Archer, Jones, and producer Mace Neufeld (amongst others), a lot of the content addresses the unexpected hassles related to the sudden need to replace the lead character of Jack Ryan with a completely different actor at the last minute. Not earth-shattering stuff by any means, but more interesting than most studio fluffumentaries.
The disc is cut into 22 chapters, and also features a theatrical trailer and subtitles (English, Spanish)
Extras Grade: B
Final CommentsWhile Ben Affleck had the unenviable task of replacing Ford in The Sum of All Fears (my personal favorite Clancy book), Patriot Games finds Ford effortlessly stepping into a film role originally held by Alec Baldwin. Phillip Noyce's entry in the Clancy library is largely predictable, but no less enjoyable as well-crafted escapism.
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