Patriot Games (1992)
Review by Doc Ezra

Written by W. Peter Iliff and Donald Stewart, based on the novel by Tom Clancy
Directed by Phillip Noyce
Starring Harrison Ford, Anne Archer, Patrick Bergin, Sean Bean, Thora Birch, James Fox, and James Earl Jones


Released by: Paramount
Region: 1
Rating: R
Anamorphic: Yep

My Advice: Rent it.

Jack Ryan (Ford) left the CIA because the job was just too high-stress. Along with his wife (Archer) and daughter (Birch), heís taking a much needed and long overdue vacation in London. Of course, when youíre the central character in a Tom Clancy story, vacation never really means rest, relaxation, and sight-seeing. So, quite out of the blue, Ryan finds himself caught in the crossfire between a militant splinter group of the IRA and the bodyguards of a royal family member. Without thinking, his Marine Corps instincts kick in, and in no time flat, heís disarmed one of the terrorists, shot another, and saved the life of a very powerful member of the Buckingham Palace inner circle.

But, just like in the old Westerns, bastards have brothers, and Ryan finds himself the object of a personal vendetta by the older brother (Bean) of the terrorist that he killed. After testifying to put said vendetta-bearer away, Ryan goes home, slightly shaken, knighted, and in more need of a vacation than ever. His old boss (Jones) invites him back into the CIA fold, but Ryan politely refuses...until his sworn enemy escapes from captivity in a daring and bloody rescue, and he starts to worry about how long it will take the Irish radical to cross the pond and start trying to make good on his threats.

Patriot Games is the second installment in the Jack Ryan films, following hard on the heels (and to an extent riding on the coattails) of The Hunt for Red October. Ford is excellent (natch) as the middle-aged Ryan returning to the CIA fold, and heís surrounded by a phenomenal supporting cast (particularly Archer and young Birch). Sean Bean does a solid turn as the militant radical on a quest for vengeance as well. There really isnít a soft performance in the whole film, which is a good thing. Despite the gunplay and occasional explosion, this is first and foremost a character-driven story.

Adapted from one of the early Ryan novels (when, it could be argued, Clancy was at his best), the story is well-paced and well-balanced between cerebral intelligence gathering spy stuff and quick-moving action flicks. You know, like a Bond film, when those were still worth a damn. If the features list was a bit more robust, buying it would be a no-brainer, but thereís not a ton here. The interviews have that vague and hazy recollective quality of any discussion with an actor about roles a decade old. Fans of the books will want to pick this up, and anybody that likes a modern spy thriller should at least give it a rental.

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