Tuesday, March 17, 2015
(June 1992, U.S.)
I must confess that only recently, Harrison Ford has been on my mind. First the news that he'd been banged up and injured in an emergency plane landing. I also just watched him (among many other bad-ass macho figures) in THE EXPENDABLES 3. And to be completely honest, despite the fact that he'll make his return as Han Solo, my expectations for the seventh STAR WARS film are considerably low - perhaps this is only because I haven't liked anything J.J. Abrams has directed, so far. Still, I believe there's a degree of depression involved in watching Ford get old because he's been the true definition of the word hero ever since 1977 when I was just ten years-old. So I suppose the only cure for this is to continuously revisit Ford's heroic films that have made him legendary. In PATRIOT GAMES, he takes over the Tom Clancy role of Jack Ryan that was first helmed on the big screen by Alec Baldwin in 1990.
Let me start by just jumping into the subject of Jack Ryan films, in general. There have been five (so far) and I've only seen three. The last one, in which Chris Pine took over the role, I haven't seen yet, so I shall not judge. Ben Affleck's attempt in THE SUM OF ALL FEARS (2002) is frankly, not even worth talking about. I mention this small fact because in my order of judging the three that I've seen (and loved!), PATRIOT GAMES actually comes last on my list. While the film under Phillip Noyce's direction doesn't nearly have the overall political intrigue and mayhem of THE HUNT FOR RED OCTOBER (1990) and CLEAR AND PRESENT DANGER (1994), it still remains a solid action-suspense thriller of personal revenge and love of family. Like so many of Ford's other roles, Jack Ryan remains a symbol of truth, righteousness and solid American values (however those may be defined these days). He's exactly the sort of man who would sacrifice his own life to come to the aid of the British Secretary of State under the attack of Irish terrorists' bullets. In the process, Ryan kills the younger brother of one of the terrorists Sean Miller (played by Sean Bean), who has now sworn revenge against Ryan and his family, even if it means turning against the overall cause of the terrorists, the Irish Republican Army and even travelling to the United States to attack his family personally. Whatever else Jack Ryan's character may be classified as, he's a family man first and goes to great feats of strength and endurance to keep them safe.
So having rather simplified the basic story of revenge in PATRIOT GAMES, it still can't be overlooked that this is a film depicting the Central Intelligence Agency's battle against terrorism and it brings several points to mind. First, by all accounts of how history would define the events of our country in the years to follow, this film may be regarded as quite dated. It's the Summer of 1992, it's peacetime even before Bill Clinton becomes president of the United States and we still know exactly who our enemies are and even where they're located. And because this is the movies, we appear to know exactly how to defeat them...and at the same time, we appear to be just as weak and unguarded as we are in real life because Sean Miller and his terrorist comrades DO manage to slip into the United States not once, but twice, to achieve their objective of killing Jack Ryan's family. Still, when we show strength against our enemies, it seems to come with great ease. Watch carefully the sequence when the CIA has made the executive decision to seek and destroy the training camp where our enemies our located - the entire matter plays out as if grown men and women are playing a video game on large screens with keyboard buttons and we simply watch people die in the form of digital screen figures. If it's that easy in real life, one may ask why the world has any terrorists in the first place?? As I indicated, this film would certainly appear dated, if not truly fictional, given the events that took place on September 11, 2001 and the fourteen years that have taken place since. In the movies, we find our enemies and kill them immediately. In real life, it takes us ten fucking years to find and kill Osama Bin-Laden!
All that aside, in a world of films where we've come to expect the great Harrison Ford to be solid and convincing actor of truth, courage and humanity, PATRIOT GAMES delivers what we want. Still, though, I could have done without that rather sappy and anti-climactic ending in which we're only meant to wonder what the sex of the Ryan's next child will be. Who cares!
Favorite line or dialogue:
Jack Ryan (to Paddy O'Neil) "I don't give a shit whether you did it or not! But if you don't help me, I will put such a stranglehold on your gun money that your boys will be out in the streets throwing rocks! I will fucking destroy you! I will make it my mission in life!"