Sunday, January 05, 2014

Penny Thoughts ‘14—Patriot Games (1992) **½

R, 117 min.
Director: Phillip Noyce
Writers: W. Peter Iliff, Donald Stewart, Tom Clancy (novel)
Starring: Harrison Ford, Anne Archer, Patrick Bergen, Sean Bean, Thora Birch, James Fox, Samuel L. Jackson, Polly Walker, J.E. Freeman, James Earl Jones, Richard Harris, Alex Norton, Hugh Fraser, David Threlfall, Alun Armstrong

“Patriot Games” has always been the weakest Jack Ryan entry in my eyes. The plot doesn’t seem to have the world affecting scope of the others, and therefore doesn’t seem worthy of the attention of a character of Ryan’s capacity.

Harrison Ford takes over the mantle of Ryan from Alec Baldwin in this sophomore effort that doesn’t make any attempts to disavow the events of “The Hunt for Red October”. I’m willing to accept that. Ford is another good choice to play Ryan, although his age jumps quite a bit from the last episode, which supposedly occurred fairly recently considering that Ryan’s daughter hasn’t aged quite as much as her father. Ford has a great ability to seem the everyman, even when he’s taking out every baddie in sight. Baldwin has always talked about the role as if it was his choice not to return; however, it seems that without Sean Connery’s star power carried over from the first film, the studio felt the need to replace Baldwin with a more bankable star in the role. Considering the film’s final ‘R’ rating, Ford’s involvement may have been even more necessary than they first predicted in order to pull in audiences.

While the story here is a good bridge in the overall mythology of the Ryan character to explain how he takes a more integral role in the CIA to eventually climb to the point where he becomes its director and even later the POTUS, the plot that he’s called in to break up here is weak to say the least. I’m sure the CIA does involve itself with many conflicts that don’t seem to directly affect U.S. interests, like the conflict between Northern Ireland and England, but the villains in this plot never actually accomplish anything.

In fact, they never do anything at all. Ryan breaks up their initial attempt to assassinate a member of the British Royal Family. Then they go to North Africa for training. Really? Training? Which they already clearly have? And then they decide to go to America to attempt to kill the same Royal they’ve already failed to kill. Surely his security detail in the U.S. will be even more stringent than it was during the earlier attempt because he has the secret service providing protection for the other dignitaries with which he’s visiting. These are stupid, stupid terrorists. Why not try another Royal? Surely there’s a reason given for that, but this plan is clearly contrived to keep Ryan in the mix.

Then, the plan is easily broken up, and it devolves into a revenge plot against Ryan for the collateral damage death of one of the terrorist’s brothers. Surely, these terrorists are more disciplined than this. Hell, they went to North Africa for training! Although director Phillip Noyce’s execution of this story is finely done, this set up isn’t worthy of the character of Jack Ryan.

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