Patriot Games (1992)

Those crazy Irishmen. You take away their Guinness and bodies start flyin’.

While he’s on vacation, having a rumpus-good time with his fam-squad, Jack Ryan (Harrison Ford) finds himself caught in the middle of an IRA attack in England, where he kills one person and subdues another (Sean Bean). Ryan used to be apart of the CIA, but is now spending his time to be with his family, teach military students about history, and just keep on living his life in the most relaxing way possible, and then all of this comes up to ruin everything that was so peaceful to begin with. Although he’s touted as a “hero” and a “savior” among the mass-media, some think otherwise. And by “some”, I mainly mean the one dude who got arrested, who wants to extract revenge on Ryan the most sinister way possible: By getting right to the man’s family. Ryan, as any man of the house would respond, doesn’t take so kindly to some crazy, vengeful Irishmen trying to stomp all over his family, so he goes back to the Agency and finds himself ready to hunt this man, and his accomplices down, in hopes that they’ll leave him and his family alone. Easier said, then done, I’m afraid to say, Jack. Easier said, then done.

The most interesting thing about most Tom Clancy film-adaptations is how little they focus on the new technology, and more on the characters that inhabit the story. It’s very interesting, although, very strange as well, considering most of Clancy’s focus more on the hi-rez technology of the agencies he’s writing about, rather than the actual agents themselves, who use the technology on a regular-basis. More or less, they’re just there as paint-thinner on the wall, meant to show you that there is substance to the story you’re reading, no matter how weightless it may be.

The owner of that car never washed it again after that. True fact.
The owner of that vehicle never washed it ever again after this. You can still practically see the cheeks.

That said, Clancy sure does love the character of Jack Ryan and come to think of it, so does Hollywood. Not only have they adapted the character of Jack Ryan numerous times for the big screen (five to be exact), but they’ve also never given up on the possibility that this character will eventually break it big with mainstream audiences, and become something of a more classier-version of someone like, say, Ethan Hunt or James Bond. Seems like a very hard obstacle for this character to hurdle over, but I think with the right time, right direction, and right leading star playing that role, then Jack Ryan may be the household name Hollywood has been wanting for the longest time since 1990.

Which is why even though it’s the only Jack Ryan adaptation out of the whole bunch to actually gets it own sequel, Patriot Games still feels like it’s trying a bit too hard to reach those same heights, even if the heights of Ethan Hunt weren’t found yet. Don’t get me wrong, this movie is fun, but it’s fun in the type of way that you only get with thrillers that take their time and focus on the smaller things in their plot, like clues, like hints, and hell, even like twists that come at you, and yet, still feel deserved. Rather than focusing on all of the blood, bullets, octane and expositions, director Philip Noyce keeps the movie’s tension focused in on the story, what could happen next, why and by whom will be affected. These are the types of thrillers that usually work wonders for me, and for the first half-hour or so, I was really on the edge of my seat, while still waiting in anticipation for the violence to really start coming out at me.

That’s why when the action did start coming out at me, in full-fledged form, I was a bit surprised how disappointed I was with it all. It didn’t disappointment in the way that it was light on all of the action I feel like the story needed to fully kick itself into high-gear; it was more that the non-stop, high-flying action made this whole movie feel somewhat disjointed when the rest of the movie before then is taken into consideration. So much time and focus is placed on the plot, and all of the little intricate details surrounding it, and then once that all goes out the window because some bullets go flying and machine guns start getting fired, it felt out-of-place, as if Noyce knew that he had Harrison Ford in the lead role, therefore, he needed somewhere to show him throwing people off of moving-objects. Which, all seriousness aside, is awesome because Ford’s the man and can make kicking anybody’s ass at his age seem believable, but after all of the slow pacing the movie went through, it seemed like a cheat at the end of it.

Guess what happens next to this character that Sean Bean is playing?
Guess what happens next to this character that Sean Bean is playing?

Then again, like I said, having Ford in this lead role is more than enough to compensate for the fact that this movie gets a little off its rocker by the end. Ford handles this role of Jack Ryan like a champ, giving us a mean bastard who knows when’s the right time to get vicious with somebody, how and for what reasons. He’s not the type of a-hole member of the CIA that we usually see in movies; in fact, he’s very different because of the fact that he actually left the agency to try and make something better for himself and his family. In that case, he’s your regular, loving father in America, just trying to do right and make everybody that surrounds him happy, even if that means killing some people in order to do so. Even then, you still feel like he could be your next neighbor; the type who holds a very deep and dark secret in his basement, somewhere underneath all the cardboard boxes used for moving.

And while Ford’s lighting up the screen, doing his “everyday man” act like no other, the supporting cast is doing a pretty fine job as well. Anne Archer shows, once again, why she’d be the coolest wife for any guy to get to go home to and continues to have dreamers like us just wishing, hoping and waiting for the day that someone like her walks on by; Samuel L. Jackson plays one of Ryan’s buddies, and gives us a rather nice, soft, sweet and cool role that’s even more enjoyable to watch now, considering this all came before the Sam Jackson we all know, and mostly, love in today’s world; Sean Beans plays the nutty Irishman out for revenge and goes a bit over-the-top, but then again, I feel like that’s what he was called on to do, so whatever; and James Earl Jones shows up as Ryan’s head-boss and scares the crap out of everybody around him, everytime he shows up. And that’s even before he starts opening his mouth!

Consensus: The last-act may get too action-y and crazy for what was before, a smarter, thoughtful thriller, but Patriot Games still proves to be a nice adaptation of the Jack Ryan character, mainly due to the fact that Harrison Ford can play a character like this in his sleep, without ever seeming like he is in fact sleeping.

7 / 10 = Rental!!

He'll take a bullet for his family anytime. Then again, if my wife was Anne Archer, you bet I sure as hell would too!
He’ll take a bullet for his family anytime. Then again, if my wife was Anne Archer, you bet I sure as hell would too!

Photo’s Credit to: IMDB


  1. Probably my second least favorite of the Jack Ryan movies, The Sum of All Fear being the worst. Having read all of the Jack Ryan books, I loved The Hunt For Red October and was excited to see this film. Unfortunately I was quite disappointed with it, Ford was good as Ryan but I thought Baldwin’s the perfect Jack Ryan. It’s too bad that studio politics forced him out of returning to play Ryan again. I thought the screenplay for this film was kind of lazy and the whole film felt like copy and paste; there wasn’t single scene in the movie where I felt the characters were having a conversation, they said a few lines of dialogs and then cut to the next scene. I actually liked some of the changes they made from the book, well the book wasn’t that good to begin with but overall I was very disappointed.

    I assume you’ll review Clear and Present Danger next? It’s a huge improvement over this film.

    • This one worked for me a bit better in the way that it was a lot more grounded and focused in on a few characters and their situation, and that was it. Not perfect, like you say, but worked for me much more than I expected it to.

  2. I’m with Ted on this one over all and I also agree with Dan about the ending being so over the top. I also agree with Ted about Clear and Present Danger as being a vast improvement over this one. No one ever mentions William Dafoe but he was super in Clear and Present Danger.

    As for franchise heroes I go:
    1.Matt Damon as Bourne
    2 Alec Balwin’s Jack Ryan 2A. Harrison Ford as Jack Ryan
    3.Bruce Willis in the Die Hard series
    4.Sean Connery as James Bond
    5. Tom Cruise in the Mission Impossible series

    Also Danno, they tried to take out Ryan in Annapolis with the pseudo midshipman, when that failed, they went after Ryan’s wife.

    PS – In Clear and Present Danger they do utilize a smart bomb which is certainly high tech – just not all that flashy.

    • Thanks, Mike! Like your points and as far as your franchise heroes go, I can’t disagree. Love Willis in there, although he should definitely be at least five. Too many crappy sequels can tarnish a legacy, you know?

    • He actually puts in a determined performance here and doesn’t make it feel like he’s just going through the typical motions we’ve seen him go through many, many times before.

  3. I like this movie, though prefer Clear & Present Danger slightly. Patriot Games has a bit of 70s political intrigue thriller in its heart, but really wants to be an 80s action movie. I like the way this flows. It would be like A Few Good Men ending in a Navy Seals infiltration of the courtroom.

  4. I think Ford does a good job, but this movie is pretty generic. I agree with you about the action in the last act, which just gets dull. Still, it’s not a complete failure and has its moments for sure.

  5. Well written review as always. Harrison Ford sounds like he is the main reason this film is watchable. Of course, seeing a young Samuel would be interesting as well. Did you hear Ford has a role in Expendables 3? Should be exciting.

    • Yeah, I heard. But who knows what he’s doing nowadays. He shows up in so much random crap, that the fun is starting to get lost from of it all.

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