26 February 2008 | JamesHitchcock
Tense and Fast-Moving Thriller
A faction of the IRA attempt to kidnap Lord William Holmes, a member of the British Royal Family who also happens to be a Government minister, but the crime is thwarted by the courageous actions of Jack Ryan, an American tourist in London with his family. During the ensuing scuffle, Ryan shoots dead one of the terrorists, Patrick Miller. Miller's elder brother Sean is jailed for his part in the attack, but is rescued by his comrades, and vows vengeance on Ryan, who is a former marine and CIA operative. When Ryan realises that Sean Miller is targeting his family he returns to work for the CIA to help with the fight against terrorism.
There are a number of fairly obvious goofs and plot holes. No member of the British Royal Family could serve as a Government minister, as they are constitutionally obliged to remain politically neutral. If a foreign citizen were being made a Knight Commander of the Royal Victorian Order (one of the highest awards in the British honours system) he would be invited to a formal ceremony in Buckingham Palace to be knighted by the Queen in person. He would not be presented with the decoration in his own home by a junior member of the Royal Family. It seems unlikely that any Irish republican terror group would carry out an attack on American citizens on American soil, as to do so would risk losing the support their cause has long enjoyed among sections of the Irish-American community. As others have pointed out, it seems illogical for Ryan to take his family to their isolated summer home to get them away from Miller; doubtless the CIA could have found a safer location for them.
The film lacks the political implications of "Clear and Present Danger", Philip Noyce's next attempt to film a Tom Clancy thriller which involved Watergate-type misconduct by the President and his closest aides. (That film also starred Harrison Ford as Ryan). Despite the involvement of the IRA, "Patriot Games" makes no attempt to analyse the complexities of the Northern Ireland situation. The film also lacks any detailed characterisation. The moral divisions are straightforward- Ryan, his wife Cathy and his CIA colleagues are good and Miller and his gang are bad.
The film does, however, have a strong hero in Harrison Ford. Ford has always been good in the thriller genre, and gives another good performance here as Ryan, combining decency with a strong sense of intelligence. Anne Archer and Sean Bean are also good as Cathy and the villainous Miller. There is a good cameo from Polly Walker as Miller's glamorous but ruthless female associate Annette. Despite the occasional implausibilities of the plot, this is a tense and fast-moving thriller with some good action sequences. It is not Ford's best thriller (that must be either "Witness" or "The Fugitive"), but it is nevertheless a good one. 7/10