A tense, well thought out thriller, Patriot Games is high on the list of the Tom Clancy adaptations to the screen. While it may not be accurate to the novel in a number of ways, this is still fine movie making aside from a clustered and overly long start up.
Patriot Games offers a lot of dialogue and characters in its first half hour. Many of these seem inconsequential by the end, though the brief confusion quickly clears into a manageable tale of terrorism circa 1992. Involving Jack Ryan (now played by Harrison Ford after Alec Baldwin dropped out of the role from Hunt for Red October) and his small family brings a personal angle to the story.
The audience is drawn into the story through some engaging action. Shoot outs are intense, and the aftermaths are equally impressive in terms of storytelling. Action takes either the slow, tense approach or all-out fire fights. Either way, Phillip Noyce’s direction handles all of this admirably.
All of this builds towards a nicely done twist ending, and finally culminates in one of those classic Hollywood good versus evil brawls in the most strenuous of circumstances. It’s hard not to enjoy this chapter of the Jack Ryan saga with set pieces and writing that are amongst the best of the series.
The transfer to Blu-ray is all over the place. Close-ups provide a startling level of facial detail. Colors carry a natural tone and remain consistent throughout. The problems begin with long shots, layered with ugly edge enhancement and murky detail (if any). The entire frame seems covered in filters and possible nose reduction, reducing the screen to an out of focus mess. These are in stark contrast to the close-ups, which are always consistently perfect.
The TrueHD mix is also inconsistent. Bass ranges from barely noticeable in the early attacks to powerful in the final moments. The excellent separation of the front channels doesn’t always carry over the rears. Still, there is some superb surround activity when it comes to gunfire or street level ambience. The audio does track the on screen action, just not all the time.
Aside from the trailer, only one bonus is on the disc. The 25-minute Patriot Games Up Close interviews many of the cast members and writers as they recount the story of how the movie came to be, along with some of the trouble the studio had bringing it to the screen.
Patriot Games has the distinction of making a first for Hollywood. The shoot would mark the first time any film production was shot inside CIA Headquarters.