Patriot Games (1992) – Phillip Noyce

I remember when I was first introduced to the world of Tom Clancy. I was always the biggest reader in my class, I always had a book on the go. In Grade 9, my friend Michael Hay came into class (for some reason I believe it was our French class, and he had the book with him, something he was reading, and he told me how much he was loving it.

Of course, I had to go out and get one for myself, thereby insuring that every Christmas or birthday, I would be receiving the latest Tom Clancy hardcover as a gift.

I was excited to hear about the films coming along, and absolutely LOVED the film adaptation of Red October, it’s still one of those movies I can just put on in the background and lose myself in. But I was super-excited when it was announced that Harrison Ford would be taking over the role of CIA analyst Jack Ryan in Patriot Games.

I saw this one a number of times in the theatre, I had the soundtrack album, featuring a score by James Horner, on cassette, and played it over and over again.

Ford is completely at ease as Jack Ryan, father, analyst, reluctant spy and hero. While on a working vacation in England, Ryan stops an IRA assassination attempt led by Sean Miller (Sean Bean) on members of the royal family. In the original novel, it was Charles and Diana, something that couldn’t be realized on screen, so Ryan saves Lord Homes (James Fox) and his family.

Ryan thinks that’s the end of it, but as he and Admiral Greer (James Earl Jones) track IRA movements, Miller begins a campaign of revenge against Ryan, targeting the man and his family, culminating with a final climatic fight on a stormy lake.

Obviously, a lot of the story had to be streamlined for an adaptation to the big screen, something that affects all of Clancy’s stories, which are incredibly layered with tech and politics and little things leading to bigger ones.

Watching it now you can tell the last act of the film had some problems and is different from the novel, but I still get into it every time I watch it and there are so many sequences I love. The initial foiling of the assassination, the attempt on Ryan as he leaves work and then climbs into his car to try and reach his wife (Anne Archer) and daughter (Thora Birch) in time while they are being pursued on the highway.

And this film has a solid supporting cast, Samuel L. Jackson, Patrick Bergin, Polly Walker, and Richard Harris. That, the score, Ford, and a fun techno-thriller aspect to the story, this one still delights me, which is why I’ve signed up for every incarnation of Jack Ryan to date.

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