The film that replaced Alec Baldwin with Harrison Ford in the Jack Ryan character, "Patriot Games" was certainly a successful continuation in the series commerically, but I've never found it as interesting or entertaining as the films that came before or after it. The film opens with Ryan (Ford) heading to London for a meeting, with his wife (Anne Archer) and daughter (Thora Birch) along for the journey. When Ryan breaks up an attack by an IRA splinter group, the members, lead by Sean Miller (Sean Bean) plot their revenge against him.
Honestly, there's not much more to "Patriot Games" than that. Although marketed as an action picture, the film is more of a moody drama. It also lacks the multiple plot threads and twists that the other Clancy films offered, and which made them as involving as they were. Although the film's few action scenes are rather well-handled, they're rather brief and not as tense or well-staged as director Phillip Noyce's work in the next Ryan film, "Clear and Present Danger".
Although concerns with plotting and pacing aside, I still found things to like about the picture. Harrison Ford is very good here; like his effort in "Clear and Present Danger", his performance here is more dynamic than some of his other, more recent roles. Samuel L. Jackson has a good, minor role and Sean Bean is effective as the villian of the picture. Although Noyce ups the tension in a handful of scenes, more often than not, it just doesn't sustain it - partially because it's obvious where the picture is headed.
VIDEO: "Patriot Games" is presented in 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen. I've never seen the original, non-anamorphic release, so this review will simply be a discussion of my feelings in regards to this new edition. The picture quality is generally good, but rather inconsistent at times. Sharpness and detail can vary; some of the brighter, outdoor scenes are impressively well-defined and crisp, but other, interior scenes can look murky and/or soft.
Aside from the inconsistent sharpness and detail, there weren't too many other concerns. The print seemed in fine condition, aside from a few mildly noticable instances of specks or marks. Some light traces of compression artifacts and edge enhancement were spotted, but neither ever became anything too terribly bothersome. The film's subdued color palette can seem a bit dull, but I suppose that's intentional. Good presentation, but nothing terribly noteworthy.
SOUND: "Patriot Games" is presented by Paramount with Dolby Digital and DTS 5.1 soundtracks. The film's sound design is generally good, even if the material doesn't exactly lead to as much in the way of surround use as any of the other Jack Ryan films. The film also apparently came right before 5.1 digital sound became commonplace, and this 5.1 presentation seems to be a repurposing of the original Dolby Surround soundtrack.
Surrounds are rather inconsistently used throughout, occasionally providing some reinforcement of the James Horner score and a few sound effects during the action scenes, but nothing much more than that. Horner's score, however, is boldly and crisply presented by the front speakers. Dialogue comes through fairly well, too. Bass isn't really present, and sound effects lack the kind of dynamic feel that they do in "Clear and Present Danger", made two years after this one. The Dolby Digital and DTS soundtracks don't seem to be any different. Like the picture quality, the film's audio is fine, but nothing too remarkable.
EXTRAS: The DVD includes a 25-minute documentary that features interviews with the producer, Ford and others. The documentary covers all the bases, from the development of the picture, to casting Ford (according to director Noyce, Baldwin wanted to do a play instead), to production issues. Again, a few stretches of promotional-ish footage here, but otherwise, quite good for this sort of thing. The trailer is the only other supplement.
Final Thoughts: Although still the least involving of the three main Jack Ryan films in my opinion, "Patriot Games" does still have some things going for it - Ford turns in a fine performance, for example. The Special Edition DVD offers fine, if not exceptional, audio/video quality, along with little in the way of supplements. Rent it.
Note: This DVD is also available in a 4-DVD set that contains the Special Editions of "Clear and Present Danger", "Hunt For Red October" and "Patriot Games". The previously released edition of "Sum of All Fears" is also included in the set.
The Film ** 1/2