This review is sponsored by
|Category||Action Thriller||Theatrical Trailer|
|Running Time||111:57 Minutes|
|Start Up||Language Selection then Menu|
Samuel L. Jackson
James Earl Jones
|Pan & Scan/Full Frame||None||English (Dolby Digital 5.1, 448Kb/s)
Spanish (Dolby Digital 2.0 , 192Kb/s)
French (Dolby Digital 2.0 , 192Kb/s)
Italian (Dolby Digital 2.0 , 192Kb/s)
|Widescreen Aspect Ratio||2.35:1|
|Original Aspect Ratio||2.35:1||
English for the Hearing Impaired
|Annoying Product Placement||No|
|Action In or After Credits||No|
Retired CIA agent Jack Ryan (Harrison Ford), his wife Cathy (Anne Archer) and daughter Sally (Thora Birch) are on a sort of working holiday in the United Kingdom, where we see Jack give a speech about post-Cold War Soviet military behaviour to a class at the Royal Naval Academy. Cathy and Sally are admiring the sights, and Jack is just leaving the Naval Academy building, when Irish terrorist Sean Miller (Sean Bean) and his cohorts make an attempt upon the life of Lord Holmes (James Fox). With Cathy and Sally hiding behind a car while bullets perforate the one occupied by Holmes, Jack disarms Sean and begins firing upon his cohorts, an act that leaves several of the terrorists dead, including Sean's younger brother, Paddy (Karl Hayden). After Jack's testimony at the trial, Sean swears vengeance upon him and his family, then makes a daring escape from British custody and rejoins his own splinter faction of the Irish Republican Army.
Naturally, the people who deal with these terrorist groups all the time are concerned for the safety of the Ryan family, and so Admiral James Greer (James Earl Jones) pays them a visit. The consensus is that, as nasty as he might be, Sean Miller would not go to all the trouble of crossing the seas to come after Jack in America, so Jack resumes teaching at his regular post, where colleague Robert Jackson (Samuel L. Jackson) awards him the Purple Target. Unfortunately, Sean is mad enough to cross oceans to come after his brother's killer, and starts by firing upon Cathy and Sally while they are driving along a highway. While the rest of the IRA, personified in this case by Paddy O'Neil (Richard Harris), deny responsibility and emphasize Miller's rogue status as much as they can, Jack is angered enough by the suffering of his daughter and wife to rejoin the CIA with the express purpose of hunting down Miller and putting him on the inactive roster for good. As a matter of fact, the tagline really says it all: "Not for honor. Not for country. For his wife and child."
In fact, it is this element that delivers most of the film's appeal, as it is hard not to feel empathy for Jack Ryan when an enraged terrorist starts attacking his wife and daughter. By the same token, it's also easy to understand how Sean Miller's anger would spiral out of control after his brother is killed, and it is this sort of conflicting depth between the two characters that keeps Patriot Games interesting. Harrison Ford delivers another fine, rock-steady performance as the father fighting for the safety of his family, and Sean Bean is very convincing as the renegade Irishman with a grudge. Samuel L. Jackson and Anne Archer are in fine form with rather limited support roles, and James Earl Jones is, well, James Earl Jones (I find it hard not to think of Darth Vader whenever I see him). The only weak points of this film in my view are the finale, which apparently deviates from the novel, and a somewhat slack pace in the middle. I have no hesitation in recommending you watch Patriot Games at least once.
The transfer is presented in an aspect ratio of 2.35:1 and is 16x9 enhanced.
The sharpness of this transfer is good, although it sometimes dips below what I would have expected from a film of this vintage, thanks in no small part to the other artefacts found in abundance here. The shadow detail is very good, just a tad below what you'd expect from films of more recent vintage, but more than adequate for the needs of the dark raid sequence at the end of the film. There is no low-level noise, but film grain is often quite an issue, making me wonder about the quality of the interpositive used for this transfer.
The colour saturation is rather on the muted site, although this is more because of the locations where the film is set than anything to do with the actual transfer. The sequences in England and Northern Ireland have a certain muted look about them that let you know in no uncertain terms exactly where they happen to be set. The sequences in Northern Africa and America are somewhat more vibrant, although you certainly can't expect any bright flashes of colour save for the red in Polly Walker's wig.
MPEG artefacts were not a real problem for this transfer unless you count the accentuated grain that shows itself in abundance during many sequences. For some odd reason, the bitrate of the transfer varies up and down a lot, and although it usually stays up around nine megabits per second, there is plenty of space to keep it there throughout the entire film and still have plenty of space for the sole theatrical trailer that makes up the sum total of the extras here. Film-to-video artefacts consisted of some fairly constant aliasing that became quite distracting both due to its severity, at least on a couple of occasions, and its frequency. Film artefacts included a few moderate scratches, as well as some black and white marks on the picture.
As you'd expect with a picture in this condition, this disc makes use of the RSDL format, with the layer change taking place between Chapters 15 and 16, at 72:38. This is just after Harrison Ford says "son of a b****", and is a reasonable place to put the pause in despite how noticeable it is.
There are a total of four soundtracks on this DVD: the original English dialogue in Dolby Digital 5.1 with a bitrate of 448 kilobits per second, with dubs in Spanish, French, and Italian in Dolby Digital 2.0 with surround encoding and a bitrate of 192 kilobits per second. I listened to the English soundtrack, although it would have been interesting to hear the Irish characters argue with one another in Spanish. There were no problems with audio sync.
The music in this film is credited to James Horner, and a fairly typical example of his style it is at that: loud, brash, and bombastic, it is perfectly suited to the needs of the film. There isn't a dark moment in the film, such as the attack on Ryan's family, that isn't accompanied by a huge melodramatic theme that some would accuse of trying to substitute for the emotion of the story. It won't have me adding Horner to my list of must-have composers any time soon, but it does suit the film's purposes.
The surround channels were very constantly utilized to support the experience of the film, not just in the action sequences (of which there are surprisingly few), but also during many of the dialogue sequences. The music from the marching band at 5:32, the sound of Harrison Ford's voice at 21:56, Sean Bean's moment of reflection in a prison cell at 26:44, the ambient sounds of nature on the Ryan properly at 32:33, Harrison Ford's entry to CIA headquarters at 53:45, and the sound of the helicopter flying into North Africa at 61:31 were the biggest stand-out examples of surround channel usage. There were numerous other moments when the surround channels were quietly building an immersive atmosphere, making for an extremely pleasant aural experience. The subwoofer was engaged to support the sounds of rockets, helicopters, gunfire, bombs, car wrecks, and all manner of other bass-heavy action sounds. It supported all of these things and more in a very consistent and aggressive manner without calling undue attention to itself.
The video transfer is acceptable if you are a rabid fan of the film, but otherwise is much less than what it deserves.
The audio transfer is of reference quality.
Extras? Well, there is a trailer.
|DVD||Toshiba SD-2109, using S-video output|
|Display||Samsung CS-823AMF (80 cm) in 16:9 and 4:3 modes, calibrated using the NTSC DVD version of Video Essentials.|
|Audio Decoder||Built In (Amplifier)|
|Amplification||Sony STR-DE835, calibrated using the NTSC DVD version of Video Essentials.|
|Speakers||Yamaha NS-45 Front Speakers, Yamaha NS-90 Rear Speakers, Yamaha NS-C120 Centre Speaker, JBL Digital 10 Active Subwoofer|