Patriot Games 4K UHD Review

Gaming the Patriot

Jack Ryan, aged 20 years since The Hunt for Red October, now lives in the prototypical American home. It’s a lavish, expensive structure, painted white with charming trees on the lot. His house sits alone, no neighbors, other than the nearby Atlantic Ocean. Scenery is nothing less than idyllic.

That setting matters. Patriot Games, like its predecessor, is rather surly in its nationalism. Ryan is an all-American hero even when on foreign soil, fighting rogue IRA members as they attempt to assassinate Royals. For his cause, Ryan is only out to save his family from harm, his wife a surgeon, his privileged daughter a target. Women don’t do much in these movies.

Missing from Red October is international scale. The thin politics drape a see-through sheet over a tepid revenge story. Sean Bean plays… Sean, out for revenge after Ryan kills his brother. That’s Patriot Games, too lean and direct for anything other than safe, studio-composed thriller material.

Most interest sits in the IRA material, casting Patriot Games with a brash, right-wing inspired story. Foreign terrorists and the muddy politics inspiring them ween down to extremists; motives matter not. That leads to a passe, overbearingly cliched finale where Ryan wrestles with Bean onboard a boat. During a thunderstorm. And the boat is on fire. Because of course it is.

Patriot Games is at its best[when] surviving on filmmaking skill rather than a derivative script

After losing John McTiernan in the director’s chair, replacement Phillip Noyce gives Patriot Games a drop of tension at least. A great sequence sees Ryan walking in Annapolis, trying to offset his own paranoia, well translated for the audience. Composition and James Horner’s escalating score convey danger. That’s Patriot Games at its best, surviving on filmmaking skill rather than a derivative script (from which novelist Tom Clancy removed himself).

A handful of scenes inside CIA HQ grapple with Clancy’s military tech where the material otherwise isn’t able to. Patriot Games offers some of the earliest photo enhancement scenes, where computers do all manner of computation to improbably clean up low-res imagery. Goofy fun, but pointless considering the limits of Patriot Games’ twists. It’s always coming down to Ford versus Bean.

Ford takes over the Ryan role without being overshadowed; Red October suffocated the lead behind Sean Connery. Derivative and generic family unit aside, Ford’s convincing performance as both husband and father is a success. More so is Sean Bean, a mixture of seething anger and violent outbursts. He does both well as primary antagonist. Rudimentary plotting limits what he can do, earning no empathy for his cause, yet his anger is enough to build a convincing adversary of Patriot Games.

Video

While imperfect, the 4K makeover for Patriot Games is a positive one. With a Dolby Vision pass, contrast elevates. Highlights enrich the various scenery and black levels reach their full potential. Like Red October, some crush is evident, if minor. Considering the finale is set inside a darkened home, it’s challenging material. Yet, shadow detail sticks out where possible.

With a new scan in tow, the UHD debut for this 1992 thriller sports stellar detail. Definition stays consistent. Facial detail is gorgeous, and exteriors of Ryan’s home excel. From grass to texture on the home itself, the uptick in resolution can’t be missed in comparison to Blu-ray.

Color work can lead to pasty flesh tones in abbreviated cases; color generally stays within a natural palette. In one of her earliest roles, Thora Birch wears a red jacket that carries plenty of zip. An amber hue decorates some desert scenes out of the first hour, and the finale comes with enriched blues.

Thick grain naturally sits over the image. Paramount’s encode is more than enough to handle things without descending to noise.

Audio

Transferring the Blu-ray’s TrueHD mix untouched, age does play a role. Dynamics won’t stretch as far as they likely could with a remaster. A car explosion in the first act serves only dry bass with limited range. Things finish better when a boat turns into a fireball, but things stay reserved.

Positional use is grand though. Little things like an off-screen TV stretching into the stereos add dimension. Dialog will spread the front soundstage too. Cars pan between speakers, gunfire pops in surround channels, and a rocket attack delivers eerie touches. Each shot comes in from behind before slamming into a police vehicle.

By the finale, it’s all-out. Thunder claps around an active boat chase. Rain splashes around in-between ocean spray. Horner’s score fits in too. It’s a lot to take in, and mixing handles this all.

Extras

The UHD is blank while the included Blu-ray offers the dated 25-minute feature, Patriot Games Up Close. Early DVD style aside, this mini-doc looks at the production with enough interviews to tell the behind-the-scenes story.

Full disclosure: This Blu-ray was provided to us for review. This has not affected the editorial process. For information on how we handle review material, please visit our about us page to learn more.

Patriot Games
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Movie

Harrison Ford takes over the Jack Ryan role in Patriot Games, but is stuck with a bland script lacking the political intrigue of its predecessor.

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The 15 unaltered images below represent the Blu-ray. For an additional 18 Patriot Games screenshots, early access to all screens (plus the 14,000+ already in our library), 50+ exclusive 4K UHD reviews, and more, support us on Patreon.