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Patriot Games
Special Collector's Edition

review by Zach B.

 

 

MPAA Rating: R (For some Violence, Sexuality and Language)

Running Time: 116 minutes

Starring: Harrison Ford, Anne Archer, Patrick Bergin, Sean Bean, Thora Birch, James Fox, with James Earl Jones and Richard Harris

Screenplay by: W. Peter Iliff and Donald Stewart
Based on the novel by: Tom Clancy

Directed by: Phillip Noyce

 

Studio: Paramount

Retail Price: $19.99

Features: Patriot Games Up Close featurette, Theatrical Trailer

Specs: 2.35:1 Anamorphic Widescreen, English Dolby Digital 5.1, English DTS 5.1, French Stereo, English Subtitles, Spanish Subtitles, English Closed Captions, Scene Selection (22 Scenes)

Released: May 6th, 2003

 

 

In "Patriot Games," Harrison Ford makes his debut as Jack Ryan and brings quite a bit in helping to define the Jack Ryan film franchise. Formerly a CIA analyst, Ryan is vacationing in England with his family (Anne Archer as his wife and a young, cute Thora Birch as his daughter) and things seem to be going well. That is when Ryan is caught dead center in a terrorist attack outside of Buckingham Palace, where he is supposed to meet his wife and daughter. The focus of the terrorist attack is to attack Lord Holmes, who holds quite a bit of power in his job. Ryan instinctively knows something is wrong and stops the attack for the most part, but it's not without bloodshed when he kills one of the terrorists. The terrorist's brother (Sean Bean) now wants revenge against Ryan (who in turn has become a hero but he doesn't care less). The revenge scheme involves killing Ryan and his family, and then of course is finishing the job that wasn't done in the first place. Looks like Ryan has to play hero once again...

A critical and box office success upon its release in the summer of 1992, "Patriot Games" is still an entertaining, highly enjoyable action thriller that is still miles ahead of most "action thrillers" Hollywood releases in this day and age. The film is a very skilled and highly polished effort, and it was wise enough to make itself seem and feel much different than the first Jack Ryan film (that being "The Hunt For Red October). The film creates tension, but in more personal and suspectible ways. But what I enjoy about the Jack Ryan films so much is that they tend to give reason and create strong stories behind all the action, so that they feel more rewarding and are more satisfying in how they make you wonder how things will resolve other than saying "that's cool" when an explosion occurs or someone is shot.

The screenplay from Donald Stewart and W. Peter Iliff, based on Tom Clancy's novel, is nothing short of solid and is carefully crafted. The story is very character based, and I found that very appealing. The motives of the characters are explained in good detail and stem from psychological standpoints, personal vendettas and efforts to bring change in some way. The film's title is certainly symbolic for the constant and very interesting shifts that occur throughout the film, and the scene where Ryan and his family play monopoly in the hotel room is wonderfully metaphorical.

While I cannot compare the film to the original novel since I've never read it, the adapators do a good job of making each scene count. Every scene here is crucial to the story since it brings something new and develops it more - there is no filler. They set things up in a very straightforward, sometimes mysterious fashion and it's interesting to note how everything seems to play well in a grand scheme of things. The political elements are honed quite well and do play some integral part overall, and they are interesting. I also liked how the characters build up and some get more and more tense, as well as how Ryan and Miller are closer together on the spectrum than one may think.

Phillip Noyce's entry as director (as of now, he's directed half the franchise) was a great choice. The film feels much more involving and more even a bit more stylized than "The Hunt For Red October." I was very impressed in how Noyce creates a very fearful atmosphere within this film and how he wastes no time in getting to the bottom of things. The film's first few minutes clearly set Ryan up and feature the attempted terrorist attack that drives the film. But back to that fearful atmosphere... I must say I was on the edge of my seat as far as the safety of Ryan's family. Noyce has some pretty nifty camera shots that give it a very clear cut and smooth look, all seamless by fine editing from Neil Travis. At nearly two hours, the film goes by very quickly and is quite even as he really gets to the core and centers what the screenplay holds. It's certainly another lean film from Noyce, one that is also well handled and is the type of blockbuster people like to see and do enjoy since he knows how to make some great noise with action, but doesn't let it overwhelm the heart of the story. I think Noyce is one of the most underrated and overlooked directors out there, as he has covered a lot of genres in film. I think his work with both Jack Ryan films does rank as some of his most involving and best.

Then of course we have the actors. While Ford nails the role in "Clear and Present Danger" and seems more comfortable as Jack Ryan in that movie, he does a damn good job here as if he's played the character before and appears that he knows exactly what he is doing. Ford as Ryan mainstays himself as if he is the everyman, but brings great emotion and more and more intensity as the movie goes along (thankfully he never goes over the top). Ford's charm is easily displayed here and brings a freshness to the character, and he also plays well against all the other characters, including a fine Anne Archer and his daughter (Thora Birch provides a few bits of innocent comic relief). I still think Ford is the best and most memorable Ryan since he really understands what the character is about and plays him in such a flawless manner.

He's also great when he goes against Sean Bean. I think Bean is the acting highlight of the movie. Destoryed by the loss of his brother at the start of the movie and how he wants to envoke a radical course of action, Bean's bitterness and intensity really sets the film ablaze. The man is nasty, and while he's the bad guy, there is just a tiny bit of sympathy to have with him because of his loss. But Bean, like Ford, really nails the character and perfectly reflects the emotions, responses and complexity the character tends to hold.

There are also some nice little supporting performances from the always commanding James Earl Jones, the late and great Richard Harris, Patrick Bergin and a decent James Fox. Simply put, "Patriot Games" has it all and if you like movies than chances are good you're going to love what is arguably the darkest installment yet of the Jack Ryan franchise (the film is rated R, after all). The darkness stems from the personal feelings of the characters, and I think that's what really kicks the movie into high gear. But given the fantastic actors doing excellent jobs, the craftiness of director Phillip Noyce, a great script and a kickin' James Horner score, it's hard to resist and ignore "Patriot Games." If you have never seen it, then I highly urge you to check it out.

 

Presented in 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen, "Patriot Games" looks pretty fantastic and this transfer is certainly a reason to upgrade over the original, non-anamorphic release. I think this visual presentation is near perfect. The image quality is incredibly sharp and the overall image has a tremendous about of depth - it really pops right out at you. The flaws are pretty minimal: there is some very slight noise, some slight edge halos here and there, a blemish or piece of dirt pops up now and then and finally, some very slight edge enhancment I doubt many will even detect.

Everything else about this transfer is nothing short of phenomenal. Detail is stunning, fleshtones look rather lovely and are jaw-dropping while color saturation is very impressive. The colors are quite vibrant and they all look like natural fit, as the film does feature a wide variety of color schemes that perfectly capture all the locations the film has, be it the England city streets or exalted room interiors. Simply put, this transfer is excellent and the best of the three Jack Ryan DVD re-releases.

 

Paramount is making good with sound options these days, and hopefully "Patriot Games" and the rest of the Jack Ryan DVD re-releases are successes so that the studio continues to support DTS. Yep, "Patriot Games," "Clear and Present Danger" and "The Hunt For Red October" are noteworthy DVD releases since they mark the first time Paramount has put DTS tracks on their DVDs in addition to Dolby Digital. And since they're all action films, they've certainly ideal for a lot of surround activity.

So yes, you get Dolby Digital 5.1 and DTS 5.1 tracks here (plus a French stereo track if you need it). Both are very even, powerful mixes that bring the viewer to the center of the action. Fidelity is much stronger than I anticipated, while the dynamics of both mixes are quite zippy and robust. James Horner's very memorable score flies through the channels with great strength and brims with life in each mix, while the dialogue is very crisp and clear so there should be no problems hearing it. The film also has quite a bit of action and violence, and the surrounds in each mix are quite empowering and really get you into the film, though I must admit I felt some of them could have been a bit more powerful.

Still, the surrounds are generally good such as the opening terrorist attack which Ryan thwarts. Gunfire and explosions pack a pretty mean punch, but it is the more subtle surrounds such as the opening scene in the hotel room that do tend to impress with great imaging. Subwoofer use is good in this movie thanks to the action scenes. All the sound elements are well-balanced too, so everything comes together without overpowering one another. So take your pick since each mix is pretty great, but I must say the DTS is slightly superior. It feels a bit more tigher and has a more dimensional quality to it while the Dolby Digital feels a bit more wide. Also included are subtitles in English and Spanish, plus English closed captions.

 

Labeled a "Special Collector's Edition" like the rest of the Jack Ryan re-releases, there really isn't much here as far as extras and the DVD subtitle is questionable. Nonetheless, we get a solid featurette in Patriot Games Up Close. Like the other Jack Ryan featurettes on the re-releases, this one is anamorphic widescreen (woohoo!) and features subtitles in English, French and Spanish. Also like the other featurettes, this one is quite entertaining and informative. Lasting twenty-five minutes and featuring your assorted stills, storyboards, movie clips and on-the-set footage, there are quite a few interviews here talking about doing more Jack Ryan films and how the focus for "Patriot Games" and "Clear and Present Danger" would be different. Mace Neufeld, the producer of the Ryan films, talks about doing more films and how scripts for both those books were going to be written together. Co-writer W. Peter Iliff talks about going on board to rewrite the script, Phillip Noyce gives his say on trying to get Alec Baldwin to come back and then there's bits on Harrison Ford stepping into the role and the actor himself talks about how he's able to build characters. There's a good focus on Noyce working with Harrison, creating the action sequences and James Earl Jones and Anne Archer talk about their roles in the movie. Associate producer Liz Kern is also interviewed. Simply put, great stuff that is well worth watching. It's not the most technical at times, but that's perfectly fine since it's vry engrossing, very insightful and very entertaining. Like the other featurettes on the Jack Ryan re-release DVDs, this is very impressive and is another must watch.

Also included is the theatrical trailer in non-anamorphic widescreen and English Dolby Digital 5.1.

 

Harrison Ford's first of two appearences as Jack Ryan is quite impressive and wonderfully involving. Packed with some thrilling moments, an involving story, rich characters and some fine action, this "Special Collector's Edition" DVD release does not disappoint either. With a great featurette, two dynamic 5.1 mixes and a gorgeous transfer all for a low retail price, it's pretty hard to resisit "Patriot Games" so do yourself a favor and pick it up for your collection.