Friday, June 5, 2009

PATRIOT GAMES - Blu-Ray (Paramount 1992) Paramount Home Video

Based on Tom Clancy’s harrowing political thriller, Phillip Noyce’s Patriot Games (1992) is actually the first novel by Clancy following the exploits of CIA analyst, Jack Ryan. In film chronology, the movie takes place after The Hunt for Red October. Harrison Ford assumes the reigns of Clancy’s reluctant man of action after Alec Baldwin suddenly became unavailable to commit to the project.

Clancy, who had not been entirely pleased with the cinematic translation of The Hunt for Red October (1990) decided to distance himself from the filmic adaptation this time around, most notably because Hollywood once more chose to alter his original narrative. In the book, the assassination attempt is on the Prince of Whales. In the film it is the Queen’s cousin, Lord William Holmes (James Fox) and his family who are the targets of Irish Republican terrorist Sean Miller (Sean Bean).

Shot in England, Annapolis, Washington and Maryland, Patriot Games is a valiant political thriller/action movie with plenty of taut suspense. The script by W. Peter Lliff and Donald Stewart begins in earnest with Jack on a ‘working vacation’ in England while his wife, Cathy (Anne Archer) and daughter Sally (Thora Birch) tour Buckingham Palace. Inadvertently, Jack thwarts a terrorist attack on Lord Holmes, killing Patrick (Karl Hayden), the younger brother of lead assassin, Sean Miller in his heroics. For his valor, Jack is awarded a knighthood by the Queen.

This sets up what is essentially a revenge scenario with Sean determined to avenge his brother’s killing. However, not before he is apprehended by the police and exposed as a member of the Ulster Liberation Army. Unfortunately, on his way from Albany Prison to the Isle of Wight, Sean’s convoy is ambushed by ULA commandos who kill the police and set Sean free to wreak havoc on Jack and his family.

Taking a small brigade with him to America, Sean sets up an ambush for the Ryans. One of his trained soldiers attempts to murder Jack just outside of the United States Naval Academy. In the meantime, Sean runs Cathy and Sally off the road on a busy highway. They are injured but escape death. Outraged by these attacks, Jack decides to go back to work for the CIA and his former superior, Admiral James Greer (James Earl Jones).

A covert surveillance exposes the rest of Sean’s team training for future acts of terrorism at a remote training camp in North Africa. Greer orders a missile strike that decimates the camp but Sean is not there. In fact, he is already back in the U.S. planning his next assassination attempt on Lord Holmes.

As part of his U.S. goodwill tour, Lord Holmes decides to visit Jack and his family at their coastal Maryland home and Sean decides that this will be the perfect opportunity to finish off two nemeses with one calculated attack. Sean breaches homeland security and attempts to kidnap Holmes and murder the Ryans.

But Jack has other ideas. He leads Lord Holmes to safety and lures Sean aboard his moored boat where the two men struggle amidst a stormy sea until Sean falls to his death on a sharp piece of ship’s tackle. Apparently, art imitated life too closely during this final confrontation. Harrison Ford accidentally struck Sean Bean with the boat hook he uses as a weapon, resulting in a permanent scar over Bean’s left eye.

Infinitely more satisfying than The Hunt for Red October, Patriot Games re-established Harrison Ford as one of Hollywood’s premiere action stars
. Ford is in his element when he underplays heroism, emerging – seemingly as filmdom’s ‘every man’, unaccustomed to grandstanding but stepping up to the plate when duty, patriotism and his country call.

Sean Bean, often underrated during this tenure, is sublimely vial as the revenge driven assassin who will stop at nothing to kill his prey. The rest of the cast are inspired choices, many of them returning to the ‘series’ for the filmic adaptation of Clancy’s Clear and Present Danger in 1994.

Paramount Home Video’s Blu-Ray easily bests its Collector’s Edition DVD released several years ago. The image exhibits a more refined rendering with strong saturated colors and excellent contrast levels. Age related artifacts present on the DVD have been cleaned up for the Blu-Ray, producing a razor sharp and very smooth image. The audio remains 5.1 Dolby Digital – aggressive enough, I suppose, though one wishes Paramount had gone all out for a 7.1 remix. Extras are limited to a brief featurette and theatrical trailer directly imported from the DVD. Recommended!

FILM RATING (out of 5 - 5 being the best)



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