Friday, May 27, 2011

Canon Movie Review: Patriot Games

Here is a look at a movie based off of a book, and also a movie in a series in which a new actor has taken the part of the lead character, the 1992 film Patriot Games. Based off of the novel by Tom Clancy, Patriot Games was directed by Phillip Noyce (Salt, The Saint, Clear and Present Danger) and stars Harrison Ford as Jack Ryan. As many of you are surely aware of, Jack Ryan was played by Alec Baldwin in Hunt for Red October, but because negotiations broke down between Paramount Studios and Baldwin, Ford was tapped as Baldwin's replacement, which was an interesting choice because Ford is 16 years older than Baldwin. Patriot Games also stars Anne Archer, James Earl Jones, Sean Bean, Patrick Bergan, Thora Birch, and Samuel L. Jackson. In Patriot Games, Ryan, a former CIA Agent, thwarts an assassination attempt by an IRA splinter group while vacationing in London. Ryan returns back home, but quickly discovers that he and his family are in danger, as the group wants revenge on Ryan. So Ryan must go back to the CIA to not only find out more about his pursuers, but to save his family as well. A few notes about the movie:

- This movie caused quite a bit of controversy when it came out. For one, Tom Clancy felt that the movie's script was so much different from his book that he distanced himself from the movie. He probably had good reason, considering the movie's ending was totally different from the book and the target of the terrorists went from the King and Queen of Wales to the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland. Also, a lot of people were not too fond of the movie's portrayal of the IRA (a.k.a. The Provisional Irish Republican Army) as a group of loose cannons that travel to America and target an innocent woman and her daughter for vengeance's sake. Personally, I don't know enough about all that to form an opinion on it, but a writer for The Variety felt that the film was 'anti-Irish', which ticked Paramount off to the point that they briefly pulled all their advertising from that publication.  

- As Jack Ryan, Harrison Ford does Harrison Ford things in a Harrison Ford manner. He plays it cool 95 percent of the time, then he starts yelling and running around like a madman when he or his family are in peril. Sure, it's not a bad performance, but it's basically the same type of character he played in The Fugitive and Air Force One, a man that gets thrown into a challenging situation and has a thirst for revenge. The only difference is that in those movies, he added a little more emotion and drama to the proceedings, while in Patriot Games, there were times that looked as if he was just going through the motions.

- Jack Ryan was not the only character to undergo a change of actors, as Anne Archer stepped in for Gates McFadden in Patriot Games. As Catherine Ryan, Archer's performance is much like the film itself, solid overall, but nothing that particularly stands out. I will say that Ford and Archer did have good chemistry when they were on screen together. Thora Birch plays the daughter of the couple, and does a commendable job in a challenging role. In fact, if it wasn't for Richard Harris's performance as IRA head Paddy O'Brien, I'd say that Birch was the best actor in this film.

- Despite all the fancy trappings this film offers, such as filming inside the CIA offices and all that, this basically is a story of revenge. After Ryan kills his brother, Sean Miller (Sean Bean) is broken out of prison and has only one thing in mind, to avenge his brother's death. After Miller and his friends put his wife and daughter in the hospital, Ryan drops everything, takes a leave from his job and rejoins the CIA, basically browbeating the head of the CIA in the process. While Ryan is sometimes cool and calm, and other times driven to anger, Miller is a hothead of the nth degree, and seems to be in a seething rage for the whole film. As Miller, Bean is a convincing bad guy, not making his character too over the top to be believable and proving to be a worthy villian in this film.

- As I mentioned before, the CIA opened up its headquarters and allowed filming to take place there, which was the first time the CIA ever did anything like that. I honestly don't know why they bothered, as other than a few scenes of people sitting around in an office and a viewing of an attack on a North African terrorist camp, the CIA setting was hardly utilized at all. Heck, they spent as much time at the hospital than the CIA building. Seems like a waste of money to me, but to each their own.

- As the director, Philip Noyce does well enough, I suppose. The action shots in this film were well-done and provided quite a bit of suspense. Basically, Noyce did enough to make this film work and lets the actors and scenes speak for themselves. James Horner provides a good and fitting score based largely off of Irish music, and cinematographer Donald McAlpine does a solid job as well.

Overall, Patriot Games is the type of film that is solid on most levels and keeps the viewer interested throughout, but ultimately isn't very memorable or remarkable. The acting is good, but the characters are mostly one-dimensional. The plot moves quickly, but it does have a few holes (such as, why does a splinter group of the IRA seem to have such a large overhead?). This movie was made to be a distraction for viewers for two hours, and serves its purpose, providing some suspense and an ending that is safe and predictable. Overall, I'd give Patriot Games a 5.9 out of 10, as its a decent film, but not great. Well, thanks for reading, and if you have any thoughts about this film, than feel free to express them by leaving a comment. Also, if you have an idea for a future review, than share those ideas by sending me an e-mail at

No comments:

Post a Comment