On the aural front things are far more clear-cut. Although the film’s accompanying Dolby TrueHD 5.1 track (again identical to the US release’s audio) is certainly not reference quality in any respect, it is a firm, good upgrade, with none of the equivalent troubling niggles that plague the video presentation. Dialogue comes across clear and coherent throughout, largely dominating the frontal array where appropriate – which is for the majority of this movie as it is far more dialogue-orientated than action-orientated. Still, there are plenty of more noisy sequences, from the opening ambush, to the ambush on the police convoy, the ambush on Ryan’s family, the attack on the terrorist training camp, and the over-the-top conclusion, all allowing for decent surround usage, dynamics and even some rumbling LFE accompaniment to give the whole thing a bit more punch.
The score itself (notwithstanding the merits of Horner’s cut n’ paste work) also gets decent presentation, a little more lightweight than you might have wanted, but it’s neither intrusive nor piercing, pleasantly giving the surrounds a little more to do, but only occasionally invoking the use of the bass channel. Overall a good, but not exception audio accompaniment, which certainly bests the video, even if it still doesn’t stand up to the quality of more recent offerings.
Patriot Games already underwent the Special Edition treatment on SD-DVD. Hang on, the ‘Special Edition’ DVD only had a single short Featurette on it, what’s so special about that? Well at least the Blu-ray does not purport to be ‘special’, as it would similarly fail on that count, boasting just that same 24 minute Featurette, Patriot Games – Up Close, as well as the original Theatrical Trailer. With interview snippets from all the major players, including the Producer who has been on-board for all of the Ryan projects (Neufeld), it’s an interesting, none too fluffy affair, just frustrating because it’s all that they have bothered to include. What about a Commentary from Noyce? What about a Commentary from Clancy?? (he may have disowned the film, but he did the same for Sum of All Fears and still chipped up for a Commentary) Or the alternate, original ending? Or the character development that was left on the cutting room floor? Sigh, one day... maybe.
Continuing my retrospective reviews on the quartet of Tom Clancy / Jack Ryan film adaptations is this look at the second film in the CIA spy series. Despite being disowned by author Tom Clancy, and critically derided for its shallow political aspirations and underdeveloped supporting characters, director Phillip Noyce’s Patriot Games – the first outing for Harrison Ford’s version of Clancy’s CIA analyst Jack Ryan (who had been previously embodied by Alec Baldwin in the Sean Connery-starring Hunt for Red October) – is still a solid, entertaining thriller. Coming at a time when nobody knew if Bond would even return, Ryan had the potential to be a strong alternative to the globetrotting Brit superspy, especially when brought to life by Ford’s everyman hero take on the character, which relied less on wit and brawn and more on wits and intelligence. A little more respect for the source material may have made this a more noteworthy debut for Ford’s Ryan, but, as is, it remains a very watchable thriller that sets the stage for the later, superior Clear and Present Danger.
This UK Region Free Blu-ray is unfortunately no better than the release that the US got a few years back, with reasonable, but DNR-tainted, video and good, but not exceptional, audio, as well as a distinct lack of significant extras. Indeed one wonders whether these films will ever get decent treatment (probably on the eve of the next Jack Ryan reboot). Still, it’s an easy upgrade from SD-DVD, and a reasonable enough addition to your collection, particularly if you’ve got the other Clancy/Ryan films.
Whilst the first entry in the series, The Hunt for Red October, largely survived its transition to Blu-ray without too many issues, Patriot Games is not so lucky. Released in the US over three years ago, the UK version gets the same disappointing presentation, a clear upgrade from DVD, but one that is shamefully marred by some of the things that Blu-ray lovers love to hate: noticeable edge enhancement and over-indulgent DNR, sapping the image of some of its depth and detail, as well as robbing it of almost all of that filmic grain that would have otherwise given it a warm, cinematic edge. Still, as stated, it is an upgrade, just not a wholly favourable one.
Presented in 1080p High Definition in the movie’s original theatrical aspect ratio of 2.35:1 widescreen, detail has been considerably improved, and the image certainly looks better resolved, newer, and cleaner than ever before. The colour scheme, whilst often quite restricted by the material itself, is brought to life with vivid vibrancy, and skin tones look healthy and authentic throughout. Blacks are strong, allowing for great shadowing, and there appear to be no print defects or damage to interfere with your viewing pleasure.
Since the original SD-DVD releases of Patriot Games were not particularly pleasant, this Blu-ray easily bests it, and will come as a refreshing upgrade to those who have made do with the DVD for over a decade, but it’s just a shame that it also comes with so many unfortunate issues – DNR leaving us with occasionally somewhat polished skin textures, and edge enhancement over-sharpening the close-ups to an unnecessary degree. It will likely not prevent you from enjoying the movie, but it does make you wonder when this movie will receive a fitting, fully respectful Blu-ray treatment.
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