"I'll just get my gear."

Patriot Games

tn_patriotgamesex3-fordThe traditional action hero is a loner. He might have friends, but he lives and travels by himself. He drifts into town on a motorcycle or on foot, or he lives alone in a filthy apartment, loft, car, or trailer. Maybe he has a kid, usually a daughter, but if so she’s likely been kidnapped and he’s trying to get her back. He might’ve had a family before, might be seeking revenge for their deaths. More likely he just screwed it up. He was too obsessed with his job, or with a specific case or vendetta. She wanted him to quit. Couldn’t take all the worrying anymore. He meant well but he knows it was all his fault. Now he drinks.

There are exceptions to this, but how many? Off the top of my head I can only think of Billy Jack, who is married, Charli Baltimore, who already has a family when she remembers she’s an assassin, and Riggs, who goes and gets married after a couple of sequels. So it happens, but not that often.

That’s one reason why ex-CIA-analyst Jack Ryan (Harrison Ford) feels different from other action heroes, and why this type of movie could be considered Adult Contemporary Action. Not only is he a family man before he’s an asskicker, but the movie heavily deals with his family life. He’s got a very successful surgeon wife (Anne Archer), who is pregnant, and a young daughter (Thora Birch), who has pinups of Jason Priestley. They go on a trip to London. They live in a big town house out in the country near DC. He works as a history professor and lecturer (arguably not a badass juxtaposition, since he’s teaching about historical conflicts and strategies, things meant to be applicable to his CIA agentry).

But he has the traditional problem of the family not wanting him to do the job. He’s retired, but there’s always a threat that the agency could want him to come back, especially now that he happened to be crossing the street next to an IRA assassination attempt on a royal cousin and he thwarted the attack and killed terrorist Sean Bean’s brother right in front of him.

The Ryan ladies are used to the job ruining their fun. When they’re getting into the car to go to the ballet or something and James Earl Jones and some other guy pull up, wife and daughter say hello, exchange a sad look and just go back inside. They don’t have to be told that fun time is cancelled.

mp_patriotgamesI’m not saying Ryan’s a wimp, I just want you to know that it’s almost halfway into the movie before his family gets attacked and he finally has their permission to go after the bastards. So it’s different from your standard action movie that would get all that shit done in a few minutes.

Bean is very good in a low-dialogue role, burning with hatred, compromising even his own more-extreme-than-usual faction of the IRA by focusing just on getting revenge against Ryan. He spends most of the movie waiting – locked up, breaking out, fleeing, hiding out, training in North Africa – and then pouncing on Ryan when he gets his window. I know hindsight is 50/50 or whatever but maybe his jailers should’ve fuckin known what was up when he spent his captivity staring at a newspaper article about the “hero” who killed his beloved baby brother. Maybe they shouldn’t have cut out the article for him in the first place. Or at least they shouldn’t have given him the tape to hang it up, in my opinion.

Ryan’s not just the guy that can save the day because he’s good at shooting and punching. That is part of his training, and it’s crucial in the climax. And I can’t deny a subtext of nerdy wish-fulfillment in this guy being told he’s “not a field agent” and then when the shit goes down he knows exactly how to handle it.

But that’s what makes this interesting: he’s not a soldier, he’s an analyst. Maybe the most dramatic scene in the movie is about him thinking. Connecting dots, walking away from a conversation, looking at himself in a bathroom mirror, remembering things he glimpsed earlier and using them to form a theory. Figuring shit out.

It’s an intelligence procedural. He has to come up with his theory and convince the other people that it’s worth exploring. Then the other things have to start coming together: pieces of evidence, info collected from informants, from spying on associates, from satellite footage. Like ZERO DARK THIRTY he just has to compile everything he knows but he can’t possibly be sure but he has to put in his best guess. And then he doesn’t go in like Rambo. He stays home and watches on a screen as SAS raids the camp.

But it’s a thriller, so then the terrorists actually come to his house all decked out like Navy SEALS, like they’re raiding his compound now. The score by James Horner throws in a little Celtic music as they bust in, which is kinda funny. You hear that in TITANIC and a million other scores, but rarely do you hear it over images of heavily armed and masked warriors invading a home to murder a bunch of innocent people. It’s usually more of a nostalgic sound. Anyway, the rest of the score pretty much sounds like ALIENS, which is a plus.

I know the character of Jack Ryan was originally played by Alec Baldwin and has been taken up by others, but this movie takes advantage of very specific Harrison Ford qualities. He is absolutely believable as a guy who’s very intelligent, who can be quiet and seemingly meek, who just wants to get out of the game and be with his family, but who also has some bitterness in him, and an obsessive nature that’s good for problem solving. And when you set him off you will regret it. His anger comes out even before his family is threatened. When his buddy Samuel L. Jackson asks what he was thinking (or not thinking) spontaneously interfering with this assassination attempt, he confesses that it just pissed him off to see those guys doing that. So he wasn’t gonna just let it happen.

This one’s based on a Tom Clancy novel of course, but with no submarines. The screenplay is credited to W. Peter Iliff and Donald Stewart. The interesting thing about that is that before hand Iliff’s only credits were PRAYER OF THE ROLLERBOYS and POINT BREAK. His “Starts with P” trilogy.

I’m happy to say that I enjoyed this one. It feels a little more reality based than your usual spy type movie. I wouldn’t want that all the time, but it works well here because there’s a good balance, it knows when to abandon realism. Director Phillip Noyce (BLIND FURY) has the right idea: just because this guy is a smarty pants doesn’t mean he’s not gonna end the movie in a fist fight to the death on a speed boat that’s on fire and careening toward land with no one driving. I guess that’s not in the book at all, but it’s a noyce place for a movie to end up.

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84 Responses to “Patriot Games”

  1. His bahasa juxtaposition is that he’s a family man! He doesn’t need a sensitive hobby when he’s a good husband and father. This is easily my favourite Jack Ryan film.

  2. *badass! Bloody auto correct.

  3. I seem to be the only weirdo out there whose favorite Jack Ryan film is…wait for it…Jack Ryan. Red October is definitely the best, but I hate submarines. The Noyce films were too serious and dry for me, and not excellent enough like the first film. As far as spy movies go, if they’re silly and fun like the Bonds then I’m happy even without serious greatness, but the Ryans really need to be at that level. I don’t accept pretty damn solid. The new one is easily the most popcorny of them, and I think the script by Koepp is smart and effective at developing the story and characters in an accessible, entertaining manner. It looks great and Branagh actually does a great job directing (and playing a villain). It’s a reboot so we get young Jack Ryan, which kind of makes it feel like a different series, but I like Pine even if he seems like a baby. Keeping it classy and awesome is Kevin Costner, with the greatest line of dialogue of the year (spoiled in the trailer). Only negative is the action, which appears to have good stuff but ranks around a 1.5 on the ACR.

  4. “The essential American soul is hard, isolate, stoic and a killer. It has never yet melted.”

    DH Lawrence.

  5. And as far as action heroes with families, what about John McClain?

  6. We really do not see much of McClane as just a family man and not kicking ass, except in those first scenes in the first DIE HARD with Holly in her office before shit goes down. Well, that and the picture of him and the family which is used as a MacGuffin.


    I’ve always wanted a place to share that clip here. Ford occupies that unique space of playing bad-ass characters, for the most part, with an every-man quality to it. I much preferred the film that comes after this in the series, but Jack Ryan as written for these films, were perfect vehicles for Harrison to take. Between those and THE FUGITIVE which came out in between, they might be some of his best non-INDY/STAR WARS/BLADE RUNNER roles and just films in general for the re-watchable factor.

  7. Adult Contemporary Action! Thank you, Vern. I have been trying to think if a term that explains why I think the Jack Ryan films and others like it, many starring Harrison Ford in the nineties, never satisfied me. And that’s why. They’re not the real deal. They’re too polite, too easy listening. They won’t offend anyone’s mom. And what kind of action movie is mom-appropriate?

    Granted my mom is a big Seagal fan. But not everyone was born so lucky.

    JD: McClane clearly fits the profile of badass who let his job get between him and family so he developed a drinking problem and now he only sees them when they need rescuing. Pretty archetypical in my opinion.

  8. I dunno about your observation there Vern, I think families throughout the movie without the drinking, where the action stems from the job is not really that uncommon. Willis in Last Boy Scout, Pacino in Heat, Travolta in Face Off, Nic Cage in the Rock are obvious, but family as part of the action maybe confuses that with stuff like Arnie in True Lies, although 6th Day not so much, Ford in Airforce One count? Rock in Walking Tall? You got tonnes in Asian action, even pop stuff like IP Man and mebbe Chow in Crouching. Lots in Sci-Fi action too like Bale in Equilibrium, even Smith in ID. Drama like Rocky, and Adventure like Willow is more common but arguably not ‘action’ – though Patriot Games is arguably not ‘action’ at that level either but if you open to action-drama/ action-thriller/ action-adventure/ action-sci-fi you gotta hundred examples of the exception makin it not so exceptional.

  9. I haven’t seen this one in years, but I remember it being up there with the otherwise excellent Ronin as having the most hilarious outsider view of Northern Irish politics (Ronin wins that dubious honour by a hair). I always way preferred Clear And Present Danger. Willem Dafoe going rogue, at least two beautifully crafted large-scale action scenes and a great cast of villainous character actors on either side of the drug war. The Medellin cartel kingpin and his treacherous bag man were more likeable then the CIA and the US President, if I remember correctly.


    I read an early, early interview with Tarantino where he uses this movie as an example of the typical Hollywood action movie of the time being unwilling to go through with the hero’s revenge. The speedboat fight between ends when Bean is accidentally impaled on an anchor, therefore absolving Ryan of guilt. It’s been many years since I’ve seen it, just thought it was an interesting observation of QT’s.

  10. “I’m happy to say that I enjoyed this one. It feels a little more reality based than your usual spy type movie. I wouldn’t want that all the time, but it works well here because there’s a good balance, it knows when to abandon realism.”
    In the book, Prince Charles is who Ryan saves, and Charles is involved in the action in the climax. So, the movie’s still got a bit more grounding in that regard.

  11. I’ve been trying for over twenty years to get into this one and I still can’t do it. The first half is pretty good, but by the time they’re on the speed boat, I’ve already gotten confused about the plot or just don’t care anymore. Its super frustrating, because I love this period of Harrison Ford’s career (Fugitive, Presumed Innocent, etc) and I’ve always been down with The Hunt For Red October, and I don’t even remember disliking Clear and Present Danger as much, but this one, by the time they end up on the boat in the dark and its like “What the fuck is happening?”- I’m done. Reading this review, I feel like I should try again, even though I just watched this in the past year. I’m actually kind of surprised its the same director as Blind Fury and Dead Calm, since those movies are super fun, but I am also seeing The Saint on his resume, and that kind of brings it all into focus.

  12. -I was going to mention that Tarantino review. He rails furiously against Patriot Games.

    -In DIE HARD, John McClane does not have a drinking problem. He’s pseudo-separated from his wife but is nonetheless first and foremost a loving husband and father. None of the rest of the so-called Die Hard movies are relevant.

    -And yeah, I’m with The Op: If you’re gonna review a Jack Ryan movie, Clear And Present Danger is the one to watch. It’s the only one that transcends Adult Contemporary Action, the SUV ambush is arguably one of the best action scenes of the 90s, and it was co-written by John Milius.

  13. This was the first time that I experienced the inability to enjoy a movie because I couldn’t let go with how they were doing it wrong from the book. Alec Baldwin was THE perfect Jack Ryan. Harrison Ford was just too old. That was hard for me because I loved Harrison Ford at that point in his career. I had a friend who hated how they actioned it all up with the speed boat ending. I didn’t mind that , but I just couldn’t get past his age and that he didn’t epitomize the Jack Ryan from the books. I know he did a good job and all, but he wasn’t the “kid” as they would refer to Jack Ryan in the book.

    I’m better at letting things go now. I accepted Tom Cruise as Jack Reacher and I’ll probably be okay with Christian Bale as Travis McGee, if that happens. Maybe I should watch this again, but I have a feeling those “he’s not Jack Ryan!” thoughts will keep popping up.

  14. JD, but he’s a family man who lives thousands of miles away from his family (who have chosen to not even use his name anymore) because he didn’t want to give up his job. He fits Vern’s terms perfectly.

  15. It’s says a lot about the bonkers world view of Tom Clancy that John Milius was brought in to tone it down.

  16. I read that the scripts for both PATRIOT GAMES and CLEAR AND PRESENT DANGER were much more the work of Steve Zaillian than anyone else credited for either film.

    CLEAR AND PRESENT DANGER is the much better film as a few others have said already. On top of being smart drama and espionage, it does have some brilliant action sequences specifically the ambush. What specifically works about that the most is the frantic nature of the score, and how it builds and builds tension before it actually begins.

  17. Of course DIE HARD is about McClane getting back together with Holly, but he’s defined by his estrangement. He fucked things up with his family partly by being too into the job, as I said. In part 3 he’s an alcoholic, in part 4 he has to make his daughter not hate him, in part 5 he has to make his son not hate him. I guess part 2 would be the family man McClane.

    AU makes some good points. FACE/OFF is an especially good one. But I think TRUE LIES actually supports my argument. It’s a comedy, and the comedic premise is “ha ha, what if a James Bond or an Arnold had to go home to a wife?” It’s acknowledged in the premise that this is not how it’s normally done. I maintain that in the classic, straightahead action movies – those starring Sly, Arnold, Jean-Claude, Seagal, and their imitators – the vast majority fit my description. It’s part of the tradition, coming out of westerns I think.

    But maybe it just has to do with my definition of action movies. Maybe the ones that do it differently just don’t seem like pure action movies to me and that’s why I don’t include them.

  18. Ethan Edwards in THE SEARCHERS fits Vern’s terms perfectly. DIE HARD: THE ONLY ONE THAT’S CANONICAL is about a guy spending the entire movie trying to reunite with his family. It completely contradicts Vern’s terms.

  19. There were basically three stages to the development of Clear And Present Danger. John Milius seems to have been first, and he did at least two drafts. His second draft is fairly close to the final film albeit with even more great action. (The drug lord’s final fate is particularly satisfying.) Then Zallian rewrote Milius. Then Donald Stewart was brought in, and he rewrote the preceding drafts, supposedly at least in part because of demands from Harrison Ford that he was the star and the last scenes should revolve around him. So a very brief moment at the end of the Milius draft became Ryan’s big confrontation with the President where Ryan declares he’s going to blow the lid off everything. (Y’know, like when Seagal’s disembodied voice echoes over stock footage of Washington DC at the end of Above The Law). Trust me, Milius’ third act was WAAAY cooler.

  20. I haven’t seen JACK RYAN so things could change, but of all the Ryan movies ths is the only one I usually skip when rewatching. At the end of the day it’s just too boring and no amount of Harrison Ford or James Earl Jones charisma can save it. As many have said CLEAR AND PRESENT DANGER is the best as it mixes politics and action on top of the core thriller. A lot of people bag on it but my second favorite is SUM OF ALL FEARS which follows a similar structure though far less cynical. Down a couple of steps is HUNT FOR RED OCTOBER which is more of a straight thriller but benefits from direction and pacing that are lacking in the much further down the stairs PATRIOT GAMES.

    Majestyk, have you seen CLEAR? It most definitely is not polite.

  21. I’ve seen it. I remember that one motorcade assault being pretty cool and then I kind of drift off. Part of it is that nowadays it’s kind of hard to get too excited about the adventures of the same American intelligence community assholes who have so thoroughly fucked up the 21st century. But mostly it’s just too long and stuffy to really satisfy as an action movie. It’s more a thriller with some action scenes. Not really my thing.

  22. Political/Spy/Espionage movies tend to bore the shit out of me, with a few exceptions like RONIN, ZD30, and THE MANCHURIAN CANDIDATE(s). I didn’t mind Edward Zwicks THE SIEGE, which had an eerie prescience about the Twin Towers attack, especially in a 1998 behind the scenes interview with Annette Bening where she says something like “what if terrorists targeted the towers?” The context I think was that THE SIEGE was based around the events of the first real life unsuccessful attempt when terrorists planted a bomb at the base of the towers(in the late 90’s?).

    I don’t go out of my way to see a Ford film, but I agree that CAPD is the best in this series. I think it’s because the politics are stripped back a bit and it’s about these drug cartels. More of a revenge/badass aesthetic. Plus, any action/crime movie set in Me-hi-co will always evoke Peckinpah’s best stuff.

  23. I have to read that Milius draft, it sounds amazing. Holy jaysus that fucker can write like a dervish. A really underrated movie from a screenplay of his that also deals with the war on drugs in a very cynical way is Walter Hill’s Extreme Prejudice. It’s an unholy cross between an 80’s action movie, Rio Bravo and a Sam Peckinpah border movie. A great cast of hard as nails character actors that don’t try and out-macho each other off the screen and a structure that’s part western and part slow-burn spy caper. It doesn’t sound like it should work but for my money it does. A worthy double bill with CAPD.

    Also with regards Patriot Games, is their a more lily-livered trope than “he was too evil even for *insert hot-button terrorist group*. I love it.

  24. “It’s says a lot about the bonkers world view of Tom Clancy that John Milius was brought in to tone it down.”

    oh yeah, he was the personification of “white guy who fetishes the military”, guys like him and Rush Limbaugh offered the conservative counterpoint to the culture of the progressive 90’s and helped get Bush in office, who ironically proceeded to run the world’s perception of the American Military as unstoppable into the ground which has now led to countries like Russia doing whatever the fuck they want and not fearing the US at all, which is a mighty dangerous situation for the world to find itself in (though Obama is not blameless for this either, but that’s another story)

    “But I think TRUE LIES actually supports my argument. It’s a comedy, and the comedic premise is “ha ha, what if a James Bond or an Arnold had to go home to a wife?””

    that’s what’s so great about TRUE LIES though, it’s a comedic premise handled with a lot of humor but it never turns into a spoof and the action is over the top without ever becoming cartoony or lacking just enough grit to make it believable, man do I love that movie, shame James Cameron turned into a chick flick director afterward

  25. That part of the film is set in Colombia, not MX. It’s a particularly interesting allegory for the Iran/Contra stuff Reagan was involved in, with Jack Ryan being a complete 180 from Oliver North. And drug cartels instead of “freedom fighters”. That’s how I naively read it anyway.

    The other thing CAPD has is a very strong cast (not to mention Jim freakin’ Douglas himself, Dean Jones). And if I would ever compose a list of things of what I think makes a movie great or at the very least re-watchable, this has at least one of them. One in particular is a wild card among a rather noticeable cast of character actors and movie stars. Best example I can think of is Kevin Spacey in GLENGARRY GLEN ROSS, taking all this verbal abuse from the likes of Pacino and Ed Harris but still holding his own. In the case of CAPD, it’s Henry Czerny, stealing almost every scene he’s in, including the ones with Ford himself. The utter embodiment of the intelligence community assholes Mr. M mentions, and thus a damn good villain.

  26. Is it just my skewed memory or does one of these end on a wacky sitcom freeze-frame in the kitchen when Anne Archer says she’s pregnant?

  27. Griff: funnily enough Milius had this to say about Limbaugh (from John’s IMDB page)

    “I was watching Rush Limbaugh the other night, and I was horrified. I would have Rush Limbaugh drawn and quartered. He was sticking up for these Wall Street pigs. There should be public show trials, mass denunciations and executions.”

    I know you were talking about Clancy in particular since Milius was kind of going from gig to gig in the 90’s but thought that would be nice to share here. I figured Russia would come up sooner or later, as it seems that this may be Obama’s true moment (possibly with Benghazi too) comparable to the Contra mess. I saw the Reagan HBO doc and in there someone says that somewhere between like 80 or 90 percent of the American public thought what he did was wrong there. Yet it was still swept under the rug, and Ronnie’s number 2 was elected less than a couple years later. Don’t know if Obama’s numbers are that bad now but it makes one wonder if he’ll have the same luck.

  28. Mexico/Colombia


  29. onthewall2983 – isn’t it crazy how Russia is going to wind up annexing the Ukraine hook, line and sinker and we’re just going to sit and watch and do nothing? how did we get here? (oh yeah, Bush and his middle eastern misadventures)

  30. What’s really crazy is how Republicans (specifically their Fox News counterparts) seemed eager to buddy up to Putin. Don’t have TV so I don’t know if that’s the vibe still, but I can only imagine how many graves would be rolling at the sight of that when only 30 years ago Reagan seemed happy to do everything short of nuking the Russkies to the ground.

  31. I think Republicans are mad at Obama for not “manning up” more, but the Russkies have been superseded by the Arabs as conservatives go to bad guys, now the Russians are more like frenemies

  32. I grew up in Annapolis, MD so I get a kick out of seeing it on film. I did not see any of the filming happen though it always amuses me that Ford turns off Main st. And onto a freeway that is clearly not in Annapolis.

    That movie ANNAPOLIS is a travesty. There is not a shipyard across from the Naval Academy. The spot where Ryan beats up the guy following him is real though.

  33. The Continental Op- Glad to see a fellow appreciator of EXTREME PREJUDICE . It is an awesome Walter Hill flick. Perhaps my favourite of his.

  34. JD – How can you say DIE HARD “completely contradicts” my terms? McClane lives alone, travels alone, had a family, screwed it up. Half of that criteria is adapted from the tale of John McClane. I just had to add some other stuff to include John Taken and John Lethal Weapon and a couple other guys.

    Continental – Close. They knew she was pregnant early in the movie, but it freezes before she tells him the gender of the baby. Weird. It would be cool if it went from that into a badass Basil Pouledoris or Brad Fiedel type score.

  35. “….the same American intelligence community assholes who have so thoroughly fucked up the 21st century.”

    Them, and a lot of Islamic fundamentalists, corrupt Europeans, and amoral, greedy corporate industrialists of every race and religion.

  36. Milius loathes Rush Limbaugh, and did not vote for George W. Bush. Milius’s reputation as a hard-right conservative is greatly exaggerated. By his own description, he’s a Zen Anarchist.

    The Siege was inspired by the first terrorist attack on the World Trade Towers by Ramzi Yousef, an early Al Qeada affiliate. In 1993 they parked a truck bomb in the parking garage, and it was far from unsuccessful. It killed something like six people and injured hundreds. When he was captured and extradited to the US to stand trial, he was flown right past the World Trade Center in a helicopter, and looking out at the Towers told the FBI agents, “Next time we will bring them down.”

  37. Vern: I can say it, because it does! In Die Hard he’s NOT A LONER. He spends the whole film trying to end his isolation! If he were a loner either his family would be dead, or long gone and out of the picture, or at the end he’d save his ex-wife and then, his job done, turn and walk off into the dawn.

  38. Man, Tarantino still keeps bringing up Patriot Games, more than twenty years after its release. He even mentioned it in an interview he did for Django. Yet I think he got it all wrong. Does Ryan really want revenge at that point? As far as I remember the movie, and it’s been a few years since I’ve seen it, Ryan and his family/guests are attacked by the bad guys and he’s more or less defensive, not aggressive. Anyway, the ending never bothered me, and having him beat the Sean Bean character to a pulp, as Tarantino would have preferred, would make zero sense for the character established in this movie (and Red October).

  39. Then have him not kill the guy. Make a choice and stand by it. Don’t let the character off the hook while still satisfying the audience’s bloodlust. It’s a cop out that we’ve all seen a million times, from PATRIOT GAMES to BEAUTY AND THE BEAST.

  40. JD, Milius might have mellowed over the years, but he used to call himself a zen fascist. And RED DAWN is not the work of a man with an understanding of the world around him.

  41. onthewall2893 – “In the case of CAPD, it’s Henry Czerny, stealing almost every scene he’s in, including the ones with Ford himself.”

    He was great wasn’t he? frankly I love that he became the go to corrupt govt stooge in mid to late 90’s thrillers. Call it typecasting but man does he excel at that shit. His performances are key reasons why I’ve always enjoyed CAPD and MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE so much.

    I haven’t watched PATRIOT GAMES in many years. CAPD is the Ryan movie I revisit the most but I’ll save my thoughts on that one for a future review of Vern is considering doing a write up on it.

    So because I’ve been removed from PG for years now I don’t know how to comment on this review. I would say that one thing I always did enjoy about it besides Patrick Bergen’s character was that it was an inverse of the revenge story. It’s DEATH WISH from the POV of a terrorist which was a nice twist. I could never get into the majority of Clancy’s novels.

    Especially the Ryan stories. They were too long winged and super conservative for my tastes but I do enjoy the Jack Ryan movies and I’m still waiting for WITHOUT REMORSE and RAINBOW SIX to be made one day. A John Clark movie series is long overdue and they should’ve started one with Dafoe when they had the chance.

  42. Mr. M: It’s that cop out that makes me bit by bit appreciate the ending of SE7EN a bit more. At the time I hated it because several other scenarios popped up that seemed more justified to me, but as Fincher’s filmography gets deeper, the one we all know seems the most satisfactory to his vision and talent. Anything else would have slightly invalidated the muck you waded through for the past two hours. It’s still not my favorite of his but it’s one of those that I appreciate more as I get older.

  43. Sorry I meant to type *if Vern not “of Vern”.

  44. onthewall2983: Exactly. Imagine if 7E7E7 had ended with Pitt saying, “No. Then I’m no better than him” and then John Doe grabs a knife he’d stashed in the dirt or something so the other cops shot him. Completely justified shooting, no moral gray areas, absolutely no thematic relevance whatsoever. It’s just another bad guy getting what he deserves while the good guy gets to keep his hands clean.

  45. My vision of that ending would be that the gun goes down, and then we have fun watching John Doe lose his shit because he’s not going to be martyred. But Pitt felt strongly enough that if he were in the same situation he’d do what the Mills character did, so one can’t argue with that.

  46. I think the “zen fascist” quote is apocryphal, and was actually a paraphrase of “zen anarchist”

  47. Wow… that’s a lot of positive commentary on “Clear and Present Danger”. Unfortunately I’m gonna be the odd man out on that one. I think “Patriot Games” is the second best Jack Ryan adaptation, of the ones I’ve seen, which don’t include last year’s “Jack Ryan” (which pretty much everybody who’s seen it seems to agree tries to turn Ryan into James Bond) and “Sum of All Fears” (which may be my favorite of Clancy’s books). The best, of course, is “The Hunt for Red October”.

    I’m in a weird spot because I was already an avid reader of Clancy’s books before I saw any of the films, so naturally my enjoyment of them would be influenced by how good an adaptation they are, as well as how well they hold up as individual movies in their own right. “Clear and Present Danger” is actually my least favorite of all the films – largely because it’s IMO Clancy’s best-structured novel – and they try to turn it into a Harrison Ford vehicle. Ryan himself barely features in the novel until quite late on. He’s not at the SUV ambush (which, in the book, nobody survives, and in the film it makes basically zero sense that anybody would). The novel does what I think Clancy does best – namely, taking a gigantic cast of characters and giving us little microscopic glimpses into their lives – and that was never going to be easy to film. The film… it’s very generic, it doesn’t have any of the strengths of the novel, and for my tastes it’s just way too boring. Sorry, CaPD fans, but that one was a big “miss” for me.

    “Patriot Games” is a much shorter, less in-depth book, which makes it a far easier thing to translate into the medium of film. The film itself is by no means as good as “Red October” but I think it works well as a straight-up revenge story. It’s got some nice cinematography, especially at the end, and the main characters are fine. I don’t think it’ll ever be remembered as a masterpiece, but I think it works pretty well and it’s IMO a lot better than “CaPD”.

  48. Milius called himself a Zen Anarchist. It got garbled and misqouted into “zen fascist”. Apparently by the same people who can’t figure out that RED DAWN is an extremely perceptive and intelligent extended metaphor about American attitudes toward the Reagan-era cold war that is in very large part also a satire.

  49. There was actually a potential alternate ending of SEVEN where Pitt refuses to kill John Doe, and John Doe is then shot and killed by Morgan Freeman’s character. It was storyboarded, but they never filmed it.

  50. “Zen Fascist” doesn’t even make any sense. “I am super open to being in tune with the natural flow of the universe, but I also believe that all aspects of human life should be subservient to the needs of the state.”

  51. It’s interesting to hear that the Jack Ryan movies are considered the action movie equivalent of “dad rock.” There’s probably some truth to that since my dad really liked these movies back in the day. Still, I think the fact that they feel grounded and almost could happen is also what makes them unique. I’ve often wondered why the franchise couldn’t begin again in the 21st century, and I think people just aren’t interested in big budget films without the spectacle of a Transformers or Avengers movie. But once you start to try and inject some large explosions, impossible stunts, and a heaping of CGI, then the original appeal of these movies disappear. So you could either make the film more realistic and risk losing a 21st century audience or you could try to keep up with contemporary blockbusters and lose what made this series interesting in the first place. They’re kind of stuck.

    Also, they mention in that Milius documentary that he also wrote that Sean Connery monoloque in The Hunt for Red October, which is arguably the best part of the movie:


  52. My dad read the books, and liked the movies. But I think there’s a bit of difference between “dad rock” and “adult contemporary”. The latter infers a more mixed audience of men and women, as these movies did have something of a female audience too. But maybe the “dad rock” quip makes more sense now as there are a lot of these action movies coming out with older male audiences in mind now, like the last Jack Ryan movie. I can see how that NOVEMBER MAN fits in with that too.

  53. The Original Paul

    September 3rd, 2014 at 5:24 pm

    “So you could either make the film more realistic and risk losing a 21st century audience or you could try to keep up with contemporary blockbusters and lose what made this series interesting in the first place. They’re kind of stuck.”

    RBatty – definitely agree with this. It’s a good part of the reason why I avoided the latest “Jack Ryan” movie – the character they were filming didn’t sound anything like the guy I remember from the books. He’s capable of quick action when it’s needed, but he’s very much a thinking man; it’s other characters, such as John Clark, who are the “doers”. “Patriot Games”, both in terms of book and film, is probably the most action-oriented that Ryan has ever been (again, not necessarily including the last movie, which I didn’t see).

    As for the “realism” aspect… I guess that most of the books would look pretty quaint and outdated nowadays. At the time they just looked unrealistic. One of them had a corrupt Admiral start a war with a poor country that promptly spiralled out of control, his motive being personal gain; another one had a suicide bomber pilot a commercial passenger jet into an American landmark. Who’d think either of those things could ever actually happen?

  54. I always kinda wish Ford would’ve made a Jack Ryan as President movie instead of AIR FORCE ONE. Especially since AFO was nowhere near as good to me now as it was back when I was 15 or whatever.

  55. Don’t feel bad Paul. I never watched JACK RYAN: SPLINTER CELL either. Unlike THE SUM OF ALL FEARS it didn’t tonally seem consistent with the others so I just passed. Apparently it wasn’t all that well received anyway. Looks like they’ll eventually try to reboot again.

  56. Thomas H Green/The Telegraph; “Milius has referred to himself as a “zen fascist” (as well as a “zen anarchist”). Arnold Schwarzenegger’s autobiography, Total Recall, tells how producer Dino De Laurentiis originally balked at casting the Austrian bodybuilder as Conan the Barbarian, a role Milius had written with him in mind and which truly launched the future governor of California’s film career. De Laurentiis said he objected because Schwarzenegger was a Nazi. “No, Dino,” Milius replied, “There is only one Nazi on this team. And that is me. I am the Nazi.”

  57. Milius never referred to himself as a zen fascist. That is an enduring urban myth propagated by guys like you. And the response to De Laurentis was a joke. A JOKE. Milius is a Jew and once threatened to sue a reporter who wrote an article calling him an anti-semite and nazi sympathizer.

  58. Good point about true lies, and others of its ilk. Only makin the point cos for me Patriot Games ain’t an action movie. I put it in my thriller folder with the Sum of all fears movie. Clear and Present Danger is my fav of the Ford Ryan movies and it’s in my action folder. Red October is in my submarine folder. I love sub movies and there’s enough of em to make it it’s own genre. At least it’s own folder on my desktop anyways.

  59. Then I guess it’s your word against the makers of the documentary MILIUS. Not much I can add to that. It is funny though how these extreme right wingers seem to know all along that they’re wrong and either deny having said things or claim it was all a joke.

  60. Mmm hmmm. The makers of the documentary MILIUS, huh? Let me get back to you on that, smart guy.

  61. It doesn’t really matter, does it? He came in to polish the script for CLEAR AND PRESENT DANGER and helped making it one of the better Jack Ryan movies out there. I think my initial point was that even if I live on the complete opposite side of the political spectre I prefer Mad Milius over Boring Clancy any day.

  62. I think Milius is a born contrarian and agitator. That documentary would attest to that. He likes a certain way of life that’s not in step with his contemporaries. Couple that with a huge ego and a delight in winding people up and you’ve got a guy people are going to have some conflicting feelings about.

    Loved the doc on him. The last act had me floored emotionally.

  63. Yes, I think we all love Milius even though most of our world views differ from his. I agree that he likes to rile people up, including and maybe especially people like ourselves. It used to seem mysterious to me how the right winger behind RED DAWN was also the guy who came in and questioned the politics of DIRTY HARRY in the excellent MAGNUM FORCE. But as I get older and more familiar with him it’s obviously because he’s not an idiot, he’s a complex person with many facets. His work speaks for itself but as a body of work. I can’t just assume RED DAWN says everything about him.

    I don’t remember specifically what the documentary said about the topic, but I tend to agree with JD, some of those famous incidents are clearly him joking around, and I think have mostly been repeated in that spirit until eventually someone takes them out of context. No need to get all up in arms though bud, we’re all Wolverines here, we can discuss this without being dicks.

  64. Man, watched this last night and… pretty solid movie, but man, this has to be the single most overqualified cast ever. Ford, OK, but Sean Bean, James Earl Jones, Sam Jackson, Ann Archer, Richard Harris, James Fox, Tiny Thora Birch, Ted Raimi, even Bob Gunton as “interviewer” entirely on a TV being half-watched by Ford. And almost none of them have anything remotely interesting to do. Nice to have em all around, I guess.

    But seriously, this movie has Ted Raimi in it. That’s really what I’m getting at here.

  65. So, direct from the makers of the documentary MILIUS: according to them, they never said “zen fascist” in the doc. It’s not in there. However, “zen anarchist” is.

  66. You mean you called them? Cool. That’s dedication.

  67. No, that is not what I mean, nor what I did. I was able to get in touch with them in order to clarify this, because I’d rather see things on the Internet that are based on actual solid facts and firsthand reports, not assumptions, hasty conclusions and endlessly repeated distortions.

  68. JD, you’re painting me into a corner here and I have to break the fourth wall for a minute.

    Vern, do I have your permission to ask if this information was given by email, in a chatroom, by fax or if he rang their doorbell? I am curious, but I don’t want to be that European dick you’ve talked about so often that starts a discussion and after a while retorts to humor and then imply that Americans don’t understand irony.

  69. JD, we appreciate this direct information. Why are you being so mysterious about it though? If you tell us you e-mailed them or you made the documentary or it’s your cousin or whatever then we know the source and it will help your goal of spreading correct information on the internet. More importantly, did they have an opinion on whether or not he had once said “zen fascist” or did they just confirm that it was not said in their movie?

  70. Maybe JD doesn’t want us to know what methods he used to extract this information so we’ll have plausible deniability when the inevitable congressional oversight committee looks into the situation.

  71. I can’t reveal my sources in the CIA and Seal Team Six.

    And peggy, if you don’t want to be “that European dick”, I’m afraid I have to suggest you missed that boat some time ago.

  72. Seriously–I’m NOT one of the filmmakers. I was, however, able to contact them directly in regards to this. I’m just trying to be discreet. That’s all.

    I will repeat a few things and clarify a few others. They, meaning the makers of the film, never said “zen fascist”. It is not in the documentary. Zen Anarchist IS in the documentary.

    They did not have an opinion on whether or not John ever, at any point in his life, ever said “zen fascist”. However, considering Milius has spent decades denying he said it, I, along with many others, am of the opinion that he didn’t, or that if he did, he was joking. There is such a thing as a misqoute, y’know.

  73. JD, I still agree with you, but I wish you would’ve just said “he has denied saying it” at the beginning and not talked down to people and called Pegsman a dick. There wasn’t even any strong disagreement to start with and you alone turned it into a belligerent argument. Please be cool, this is not talkbacks.

  74. I turned it into a belligerent argument? Was I the one who declared John Milius was a fascist and a nazi, while citing an urban legend that has been discredited for years, and then dragged the documentary into it? And as for the “euro-dick” thing, I, like Milius, was kidding, but you gotta admit, pegs left himself wide open for that one.

  75. Pegsman quoted an article. You immediately jumped to referring to “guys like you” and “smart guy” and called him a dick. His only incorrect statement was thinking that the documentary said “zen fascist.” This was in the context of him praising Milius for being, in his view, more interesting than Clancy. You could easily have cleared up the misconception without insulting him repeatedly.

  76. Who is Sean Connery and who is Candice Bergen in this argument?

    I pegs John Huston.

  77. Also, re. the documentary, is Scorsese contractually obliged to appear in every single documentary on cinema or filmmakers ever made? I love it every time he shows up in one, but it seems to be a huge part of his life.

  78. Normally I’d see your point on this, but Milius was as much a peer of his as well as someone who he admired as a storyteller.

  79. “Guys like you” and “smart guy” are now repeated insults? Well, considering they were in the context of his insulting John Milius by calling him a neo-nazi fascist, accusations based gullible acceptance of slander (ooooo, there I go, insulting him again, I guess) I’d say I went easy on him.

    And he said, “I don’t want to be that European dick”, which was a joke on his part (I presume) and which I responded to with a joke. In retrospect, it wasn’t a very funny joke, but again, I did not come out the blue and say, “Pegsman, you are a dick”. I was riffing on something he put out there.

    And “militarized police” is a myth fueled by propaganda and ignorance.

  80. Y’know, I looked back at this commentary thread, and I realized the whole thing began at least in part with a misunderstanding. Pegsman was responding to my defense of Milius, which was in turn inspired by my completely misreading something Griff posted. I thought Griff was describing John Milius when he was actually talking about Tom Clancy.

    Whoops. Sorry about that.

    I stand by “Zen Anarchist” and my concurrent statements regarding John Milius and the myth of police militarization, though.

  81. Getting back to the movie at hand, I read the other day that Richard Harris lost the role of IRA man Liam Devlin in THE EAGLE HAS LANDED in 1976 because he supported the IRA in real life. Apparently that didn’t matter any more in 1992.

  82. I am still waiting for the action movie where the loner hero rides into town on a dragon.

  83. composed position!

  84. I watched this properly for the first time, as opposed to watching chunks while channel-surfing. I say this really in comparison with the other film and not from the literary perspective of Clancy’s books, but it really feels to me as if Ford was settling into the character, as opposed to embodying it completely by the time of CLEAR AND PRESENT DANGER. He has some tremendous moments in this, though. Particularly his moments with Richard Harris, and specifically the scene in the bar where he’s sitting on a great deal of rage that is held back by his professionalism.

    BTW Vern, the rest of the score doesn’t just sound like ALIENS it is taken much directly from that score. He’d do the same to a lesser extent with CLEAR AND PRESENT DANGER, but he was known to have borrowed from his work on other movies from time to time.

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