Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Patriot Games ★★1/2

   "Patriot Games" is a 1992 film based on the novel of the same name written by Tom Clancy. It stars Harrison Ford as the title character of Jack Ryan, and it is the second movie in a series of novels and films to feature this protagonist. Ryan is an ex-CIA analyst turned U.S. Naval Academy professor who, after interfering with an attempted assassination, is thrown into a game of cat and mouse with the lives of himself and his family at stake. This is a technically sound film with moderate direction; however, it falls short simply because of its inept ability to blend a seemingly intricate plot with the action and suspense we expect from an entertaining film.

   This film begins with Jack Ryan and his family, consisting of his beautiful wife Catherine and his lovable daughter Sally, vacationing in London. After giving a guest speech at the British Royal Naval Academy, Ryan walks the short distance to meet his family at a local park. This is where Ryan witnesses an attempted assassination on the life of Lord Holmes, a British Secretary of State and member of the Royal Family. Of course, it is only an "attempted" assassination due to the heroic efforts of Jack. He disarms one culprit and, after being shot once himself in the shoulder, he proceeds to shoot two of the other assailants, killing one of them. This lone climatic event will spur the rest of the storyline in this film.

   The man that Jack Ryan disarms is Sean Miller, the older brother to the man Ryan kills. Although the plot consists of varying components underlying this attempt on Lord Holmes' life, (including Irish Republic Army strategy) the film becomes one-dimensional and focuses primarily on Sean Miller and his efforts to enact revenge on Ryan by killing him and his family. There is little action to fuel the flames and to keep the viewer interested. In fact, we are ultimately left with a film that has forgotten that it should rely on suspense and thrills instead of mundane dialogue and conversation.

   This picture has many familiar faces and consists of a very talented cast. As mentioned above, Harrison Ford stars as Jack Ryan and, although his performance is unblemished, this character lacks the enthusiasm and charisma that this film direly needs. Jack Ryan is a reserved and dignified individual who is suddenly pitted against a man hell-bent on his destruction. This does not bode well for Ryan and, throughout the film, we wait for him to display some sort of emotionally charged anger to no avail. (I assume that is why he was always an analyst and never much of a field operative, as he is not cut out for killing, even if there is the motivation for that action.)
   Anne Archer plays Catherine Ryan, a doctor and wife to Jack. Archer is a very talented actress with a resumé that speaks for itself. She provides an emotional outlet for Jack, among other things, but, unfortunately, her presence ultimately comes off as nothing more than a plot device. Without her, there would be no collateral for Sean Miller to act upon. The attempt on her life gives Jack Ryan a reason to once again get involved in CIA operations and to try and track down this man. Sean Bean delivers a mediocre performance as the principal bad guy, Sean Miller. This character lacks all the necessary components of what a "villain" should consist of. Miller's only ambition is to kill Ryan; consequently, making him one-dimensional and a rather boring character. There are two notable appearances by seasoned, veteran actors James Earl Jones and Samuel L. Jackson. They are limited in screen-time and dialogue; however, their performances help shake the calm waters.

   "Patriot Games" is a film that teeters on the lines of intrigue and boredom. I mean, Jack Ryan has all the essential qualities that we expect in a hero, but he lacks the emotional traits that lure us into caring for the individual. This is a thriller that seems to just run through the motions, and it doesn't evoke the best out of its story or the actors.

    It all leads to a rather unexciting conclusion where all of the characters are coincidentally in the same place at the same time, and it becomes just another example of a best-selling novel that is begrudgingly adapted to film. (There is no denying that Jack Ryan is best viewed in the black and white borders of a novel.) The big screen intimidates Jack Ryan, who ultimately comes off as nothing more than a poor man's James Bond.

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