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Patriot Games: Special Edition

You can take Alec Baldwin and Ben Affleck and give them to the KGB (please!) — Harrison Ford is the only Jack Ryan worthy of the name. Whether he's facing off with terrorists and drug dealers or doggedly trying to protect his family, Ford brings the most depth and believability to author Tom Clancy's star character. And frankly, considering the escapades the CIA analyst extraordinaire routinely finds himself mixed up in, believability is a key concern. In Patriot Games, which is probably the best of the Jack Ryan movies to date, those exploits run him afoul of some ultra-militant IRA thugs led by Kevin O'Donnell (Patrick Bergin). While on vacation in London, Jack — who has officially given up the CIA life — helps thwart the terrorists' attempt to assassinate a member of the royal family (James Fox). In the midst of the chaos, Jack kills one of the attackers; bad luck, since the fallen fellow was the younger brother of vengeance-minded Sean Miller (The Fellowship of the Ring's Sean Bean, doing his usual villainous scowl). All too soon, Jack and his wife (Anne Archer) and daughter (Thora Birch) become the group's next targets, and Jack finds himself reluctantly drawn back into the spy game. For all of its efforts to make a statement or two about the Irish and their political causes (Richard Harris has a cameo as IRA leader Paddy O'Neil), at its heart Patriot Games is everything we expect of a big-screen Tom Clancy adaptation: plenty of action, lots of tense scenes (especially the climactic sequence set in the Ryans' seaside home), and a glimpse inside a secretive government agency. Sure, some of the technology and dialogue is now dated ("There's never been a terrorist attack on American soil," James Earl Jones' Admiral Greer tells Jack at one point), but the movie still works as a compelling, intelligent thriller, one that adeptly showcases a hero whose grim determination is matched only by his cool competency. (Let's see Ben Affleck pull that off...) Paramount's Patriot Games: Special Edition DVD sports a beautiful anamorphic transfer (2.35:1) as well as both DTS and Dolby Digital 5.1 audio tracks (French 2.0 stereo also is available, as are English and Spanish subtitles) — all the better to hear bullets fly and bombs go off. There's only one extra besides the theatrical trailer, but it's a good one: "Patriot Games Up Close" is an absorbing 25-minute retrospective featurette that includes new interviews with Ford, Archer, director Philip Noyce, and other crew members. Keep-case.
—Betsy Bozdech

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