Patriot Games [Blu-Ray]
Blu-ray ALL - America - Paramount Home Entertainment
Review written by and copyright: Noor Razzak (6th October 2008).
The Film

The political thrillers written by Tom Clancy have sold millions around the world, been translated into numerous languages and have made the cross over successfully to films and other mediums like video games as well. Back in the early 1990's the books were being actively developed by Paramount first in 1990 with "The Hunt for Red October" with a young Alec Baldwin as the lead Jack Ryan, a CIA operative trying to find a new Russian nuclear sub and its Captain who wishes to defect to the United States. The film introduced the world to the intelligent and resourceful CIA agent with much success. The film helped usher the way for more political thrillers featuring the agent, and in 1992 "Patriot Games" would become the second of eventually four Ryan films. This time with a different actor as Ryan, Harrison Ford.

Ford brings a different sensibility to the character than Baldwin. In this film Ryan is older and have left his CIA days behind him. While on vacation in London, he becomes involved in an IRA terrorist plot to kill a member of the royal family. He ends up capturing one of the members, Sean Miller (Sean Bean), who is placed under arrest. He eventually is set free by his cohorts and sets out on hunting Ryan down for thwarting their plans. He smuggles himself to the US and starts targeting Ryan and his family. Pushed to the limit Ryan goes back into the CIA fold to protect his family and take down these terrorists. The further he investigates the further be uncovers their plot.

"Patriot Games" follows a rather simple structure, it's a complex political thriller with the "complex" taken out so it's rather easy to follow. The film's narrative takes us into the IRA world (but just barely), and although there are political issues that are glossed over, it's basically a revenge film, only the character getting revenge is the villain and not the hero. Meanwhile the terrorists continue to plot their plot, angry at the UK government for imprisoning their political heroes and freedom fighters.

What makes the film so interesting is not entirely in its plot, but rather the character of Ryan. Ford has this rough-around-the-edges quality about him, a sort of unlikely hero but one that doesn't back down and will do anything to keep his family safe. I think that's something that a lot of people can relate to and it ultimately makes him infinitely likable. You want to see him succeed and take down the bad guys and does it without resorting to his fists (well not too much anyway, there was the boat fight sequence at the end of the film).

Taking the story of IRA related events is a rather interesting angle to take for an American political thriller, in a time when we're used to cold-war related stories or Arab terrorists (although there's an Arab connection in this film as well) the problems faced in Ireland seemed unimportant to most people, but this film does it's bit to put these issues to light to mainstream audiences but the issues are far more complex than the film actually portrays. It doesn't provide a history lesson, that's not the point of the film, the point is to entertain and it does that without getting too heavy handed.

"Patriot Games" is a decent thriller and a good way to spend 117 minutes of your time, it's not the best of the Ryan films (I personally liked "Clear and Present Danger" (1994) the best) but it's worth watching if you haven't seen it before.

Video

Presented in a widescreen ratio of 2.35:1 this transfer is delivered to viewers in high-definition 1080p 24/fps and has been mastered using AVC MPEG-4 compression. While the film shows some age this is a fairly decent image. Lets start with the negatives, some sharpness isn't always maintained, some shots appear softer than others. There are some specks visible, there's some grain which is inherent in the film stock, so its not a flaw. Detail and texture looks good, colors are understated but that's part of the look of the film and this transfer accurately presents that. Blacks are nice and bold without any noise amid them and I found shadow detail to be consistent.

Audio

There are three audio tracks present on this disc in English Dolby Digital TrueHD 5.1 surround as well as standard Dolby Digital 5.1 tracks in both French and Spanish. The TrueHD track presents the film with a lossless audio track, a good thing to be sure. However, it's not the best most impressive track I've heard. While the dialogue is clear and distortion free, the film's ambience can be a bit limited as can its depth. There's a decent range here from dialogue to aggressive action scenes and the music does a decent job of immersing the viewer than the ambience does. At least the score pits up the slack. While the track lacks a certain punch, it's not a bad effort considering the film is 16-years old.
Optional subtitles are included in English, English for the hearing impaired, French, Portuguese and Spanish.

Extras

Paramount have included only two short extras on this disc, a featurette and a theatrical trailer. Below is a closer look at these supplements.

First up is "Patriot Games Up Close" featurette which runs for 25 minutes 14 seconds. This is a standard EPK clip, which was produced for the promotional campaign for the film's theatrical release. The clip includes some interviews with key cast and crew as they gloss over the film, it's plot, their involvement, etc. It features some behind-the-scenes footage as well cut into the clip. It's a rudimentary clip that doesn't go any deeper than the basics of the production.

The only other extra on this disc is the film's original theatrical trailer presented in HD and runs for 2 minutes 31 seconds.

Overall

The Film: B Video: B+ Audio: B+ Extras: C Overall: B-