Paramount // 1992 // 116 Minutes // Rated R
Reviewed by Judge Nicholas Sylvain (Retired) // June 18th, 1999
Not for Honor. Not for country. For his wife and child.
One of Tom Clancy's best books adapted to film, this disc is further blessed by the presence of some very fine actors and actresses. Unfortunately, Paramount has gutted a fine story with a disappointing transfer and a criminal lack of extras.
I am a huge Tom Clancy fan, so I always run to the video store when there is a new Clancy movie to buy. I was tickled when I heard this disc was coming, because I knew that it would have to be a great improvement over my pan and scan VHS copy. If that were my only criterion for a review, I would report mission accomplished and go write my next one. Sadly, as a DVD, Patriot Games is mediocre at best.
The story is relatively straightforward, but has its share of tense and compelling moments. Jack Ryan (Harrison Ford) is on a working vacation in London, England, when he stumbles across a terrorist attack upon a member of the Royal family, Lord Holmes (James Fox). In short order, Ryan kills one terrorist and wounds his brother, Sean Miller (Sean Bean). Ryan sticks around to testify against Miller, then heads back to his Annapolis, Maryland home while Miller heads to a maximum security British prison...But not for long.
Miller's cohorts spring him in effective and murderous fashion, and Miller begins to nurse his desire to exact revenge upon Ryan. His revenge leaves Ryan's wife wounded and his daughter critically wounded. Ryan fights back in the best way he knows how, by going back to an old job with the CIA and tracking down Sean Miller and his IRA splinter group. He does a thorough job, which leads to a particularly chilling scene where Ryan watches via satellite while a British SAS team eliminates Miller's training camp in "North Africa" (wink, wink). Thinking that Miller has been killed, Ryan proceeds with a birthday party for his recovered daughter, with Lord Holmes as a special guest. Miller crashes the party, and we are eventually treated to a mano a mano fight between Ryan and Miller. (A real Hollywood ending, which is a bit of an anti-climax. I prefer the book's ending.)
A fine group of actors and actresses, also including Samuel L. Jackson, Anne Archer, and James Earl Jones, provide an excellent emotional depth to the story, which is a lot more personal than your usual Clancy techno-thriller.
The video transfer looks like it was pulled off a shelf from somewhere and slapped onto the DVD with only limited attention paid to quality. Specks of dirt and the like are seen too often for comfort. Too many scenes are marred by excessive graininess or digital noise. I had to review several scenes to make sure my eyes weren't deceiving me. Sadly, they weren't. I observed a number of other minor, but annoying video problems, such as the opening credits shimmering and a certain softness of picture in some scenes. Colors are well saturated and vivid, at least.
I don't mean to imply that the video is unwatchable, but it is sadly deficient.
Being a Paramount disc, it contains the typical (and only recently corrected) fault that you can't choose your audio on the fly, but must choose from the Setup menu. The audio is acceptable, but bass punch is AWOL for the big explosions. I do have to give points for James Horner's musical score, which at times had an Aliens sound to it.
The menus are bare bones, and the ONLY extra is the theatrical trailer, which at least is 2.35:1 letterboxed. If Paramount is going to express such contempt for its movies by treating their DVD release with such neglect, they shouldn't even bother.
Oddly enough, the video problems aren't consistent through the whole movie, but they come and go. Some scenes, such as Miller's rescue from his prison van, are actually quite stunning. Bottom line, if you are casually watching the movie, you probably could tolerate or ignore the worst of it. The disc is guilty as hell, and only the film saves it from becoming a coaster.
If you are a Tom Clancy and/or Harrison Ford fan, you'll still want the disc. Otherwise, I wouldn't go out of my way to buy it (except for a bargain price).
The film itself is acquitted. Paramount is guilty of Criminal Simulation of a DVD Disc, and ought to publicly humiliate itself and commit ritual suicide for releasing such a poor disc of such a fine movie.
Review content copyright © 1999 Nicholas Sylvain; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2013 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
* 2.35:1 Non-Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround (English)
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround (French)
Running Time: 116 Minutes
Release Year: 1992
MPAA Rating: Rated R
* Theatrical Trailer