Movie Reviews

Movie Review: Patriot Games – Jack Ryan is Better Than Ever as Harrison Ford Takes Over

Written by Tom Clancy, W. Peter Iliff, and Donald E. Stewart
Directed by Phillip Noyce

Patriot Games was the second of the Jack Ryan films based on the books by Tom Clancy.  Harrison Ford steps into the role portrayed by Alec Baldwin in The Hunt For Red October. Although I found no fault with Baldwin’s portrayal, Ford seems to define the character. Having seen three different actors in the role, I can say that Jack Ryan was best when portrayed by Ford.

In Patriot Games, Ryan isn’t dealing with the Soviet threat in this film, but rather a terrorist threat coming out of Ireland.  While vacationing with his family in London, he’s in the right place (or wrong place) at the right time and ends up foiling an assassination attempt on a member of the royal family by IRA terrorist Sean Miller (portrayed by Sean Bean).  Ryan kills Sean’s brother and manages to detain Miller to be arrested.  Ryan testifies at the trial, putting him in Miller’s sights when he is sprung after being convicted.

At home, Ryan is teaching at Annapolis after having left the CIA.  However, the Agency still wants him back and makes a visit when Miller escapes.  Ryan is content with life, especially since his wife is expecting their second child.

Miller comes to the U.S., ostensibly to further train for his work with the IRA.  Soon, though, he is after Ryan’s family, planted outside his daughter’s school waiting for a chance to get to them.  This is the catalyst for Jack’s return to the CIA.

Having not read the book, I could thoroughly enjoy this movie.  It creates an air of suspense throughout, building the tension as Ryan learns that Miller is after his wife and daughter.  It also does well building the scene of the attempt on Ryan himself, getting the viewer inside the head of Jack as he’s walking to his car and his instincts are piqued.

Ford is fantastic in the role, being able to change from a loving husband and father to serious operative as well as pulling off the action sequences.  Anne Archer as his wife is just as believable in a way that only a more mature cast can handle. James Earl Jones is back as Admiral Greer and was also excellent, as was Samuel L. Jackson portraying Ryan’s friend and Navy officer, Robby Jackson.

Sean Bean is the one who really creates the atmosphere for this film as Miller becomes obsessed with Jack Ryan and his family. He doesn’t take the character over the top, but still oozes a degree of unhealthy fixation on Ryan. Were Miller just to do what he set out to do originally he probably would have been successful, but the diversion of Ryan proves too much for him.  Bean Portrays this well and I haven’t seen him in a role yet that I find fault with his performance.

The DVD doesn’t have much extra, just one featurette. Patriot Games is definitely worth seeing, and not the chopped-up version you’ll get on network television.

4 replies »

  1. One of my favorite films in the Jack Ryan film series. It did depart from the chronology of the novels; in real life, Patriot Games is the second book in the series, but it’s a prequel to The Hunt for Red October; the earlier novel even makes vague references to “Sir John” and the incident where Jack thwarts Sean Miller’s attempt to kidnap the (unnamed) Prince of Wales and his wife. And, as Hollywood often does, it changed the ending – dramatically.

    I understand why the changes were necessary, and I accept them. (I simply treat the movies as being separate from the books. Otherwise, I’d go nuts with the nitpicks and NOT enjoy the films at all.)

    Tom Clancy, on the other hand, did not like any of the movies based on his books, and before he died in 2013, he groused that by then there were 12 or 13 Jack Ryan novels in print, and only four films produced by Mace Neufeld and released by Paramount. I liked Clancy’s books, but I don’t think he ever “got” how different books are from movies. (Then again, many readers seem to have the same blind spot….)

    • I wish I could remember reading the book. I know I read this one ad Hunt for Red October but I couldn’t tell you how they changed it from the book to the film anymore. I still like the earlier Jack Ryan moved better than the later ones, and the series.

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