Patriot Games is the second film to feature CIA operative Jack Ryan (the first was The Hunt for Red October, with Alec Baldwin in the title role) and sees Harrison Ford playing the now-retired CIA agent, on holiday in London with his wife Cathy (Anne Archer) and daughter Sally (Thora Birch).
In the right place at the right time, Ryan prevents the assassination of government minister Lord Holmes (James Fox) by a renegade IRA unit, killing one of their number into the bargain. Hailed a hero, he returns to the family’s seaside summer home in America but he’s being followed by a team of terrorists led by Sean Miller (Sean Bean) and Kevin O’Donnell (Patrick Bergin), intent on revenge for the killing of their comrade…
Baldwin turned down reprising the role because of prior committments (or, alternatively, so rumour has it, was asking too much) and so Patriot Games, in the novels a prequel to The Hunt… , became a sequel, probably because Ford is older than Baldwin. Director Noyce, who’d cut his teeth on Dead Calm and has since gone on to helm The Saint and the acclaimed Rabbit Proof Fence, keeps the tension high throughout the film, using both human intelligence and high-tech spy techniques in equal measure to move the plot along.
Ford (who went on to play the same role in Clancy’s Clear and Present Danger) is suitably tough yet intelligent while Archer, who must wonder quite how she got stereotyped as a threatened female (previous titles include Fatal Attraction and Body of Evidence) turns from frightened wife to vengeful harpy when Sally is injured in one of the early attacks. Bean turns in one of his better performances as the controlled yet psychotic terrorist and there are terrific supporting performances from the likes of Fox, James Earl Jones, Samuel L Jackson and Richard Harris magnificent as a Sinn Fein ‘spokesman’.
USA / 1992
Director: Phillip Noyce
Writers: Peter Ilich, Donald E Stewart, Steve Zaillian from Tom Clancy’s novel
Cast: Harrison Ford, Anne Archer, Patrick Bergin, Sean Bean, Thora Birch, James Fox, Samual L Jackson, Richard Harris