Reviewed by Andre Dellamorte
In 1992, the world of terrorism was more conceptual than it is now. Hijackings seemed the worst of it. With the X-Files movie release, Annie Wagner suggests that X-Files could only exist in the Clintonian era – it’s no surprise the show dwindled post-9/11 – there were better things to conspiracize about. Just as Independence Day and Armageddon – films that reveled in America watching itself be destroyed – are not as much fun to watch as they once may have been (mileage varies). In that way there’s two things that stand out about 1992’s Patriot Games. One is that the terrorist activities, and the government responses to them feel truer now than then, and second, Harrison Ford was actually on his game in the movie.
Ford stars as Jack Ryan, who’s in England for a presentation with his wife (Anne Archer) and daughter (Thora Birch) when some rogue IRA members try to kill a royal family member. Enter Jack Ryan, who takes a bullet and kills Sena Miller’s brother, which pisses off Sean Miller (Sean Bean) to no end. Sean works with Kevin O’Donnell (Patrick Bergen), and Annette (Polly Walker), but Sean goes to jail on the testimony of Ryan. Such leads Miller and his gang to break Sean out and then try to get revenge. Their patience is at an end, they want revenge. And so they come to America to kill Ryan and his family, which means Ryan has to threaten IRA head Paddy O’Neal (Richard Harris) with violence and stuff. Working for the good guys are James Earl Jones, J.E. Freeman, Ted Raimi, and Samuel L. Jackson.
Directed by Phillip Noyce, the problem with the film is that the action scenes aren’t that great, but they’ve gotten better for having the feel of the practical. Everything’s done mostly for real, and so at least there’s something palpable there, which adds to the pleasure. Ford is also aware and committed, and when compared to his work over the last ten years, that makes one hell of a difference. Even if Anne Archer is the anti-sex, the two bounce well off each other, and the film is fun for it. The best scene in the movie is its most famous, when the government strike goes in and the men watch it from a TV screen. It’s still pretty chilling and likely the only reason why people remember this. Bean is good, Bergin is boring, Polly Walker is hot in her distanced way. You wish Jackson had more to do, hell you wish James Earl Jones had more to do. But at least the film isn’t bloated – it runs just under two hours. It’s still the weakest of the Ryan series.
Paramount presents the film in anamorphic widescreen (2.35:1) and in 5.1 TrueHD surround. The film looks that much better and the new 1080P transfer is an improvement over the last DVD go-around on these titles. Everything looks that much better. Extras consist of a theatrical trailer and “Patriot Games Up Close” (25 min.) a short piece that gets director Phillip Noyce, Ford, Archer, Jones, screenwriter W. Peter Illiff, among others to talk about the making of the picture. Nothing new to it, this was done for the DVD reissue, but solid work.