A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Patriot Games is a spy thriller adapted from the Tom Clancy novel of the same name, and it's the sequel to The Hunt for Red October with different lead actors. It contains numerous scenes of violence and bloodshed, dozens of deaths, high peril, and frequent use of weapons, particularly assault rifles. It depicts multiple scenes of a pregnant mother and her child put in grave danger, including their injury and near-death. Language is an issue: Explicit profanity, such as "f--k," appears. Elsewhere, milder profanity and harsh, threatening language is used, from expressions such as "Jesus" and "bastard" to threats of "slit his throat" or "put a bullet in his head." There are several suggestive scenes but no nudity.
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What's the story?
Former CIA man Jack Ryan (Harrison Ford) stumbles onto a British royal's assassination plot, unwittingly making his wife Cathy (Anne Archer) and daughter Sally (Thora Birch) the target of a violent faction of IRA terrorists led by the vindictive Sean Miller (Sean Bean). Can he protect his family as a civilian, or will the threat of danger lure him back into CIA life?
Is it any good?
For anyone who lived through the '90s, PATRIOT GAMES is an engaging, high-action, violent reminder of the fading memory of IRA bombings and terrorist plots, of America in the post-Cold War era. It also reminds us why Harrison Ford's mix of fluster and bravado made him so good at playing a family man in pretty much anything. Here, family values move to the fore as his raison d'être for sticking it to the terrorists, but, for a family movie, it's heavy on violence and probably requires some working knowledge of the aforementioned political landscape to follow. It also has tough scenes for parents, including a pregnant mother and child in a graphic car crash, some worrisome hospital scenes, and multiple scenes with a child under attack or a mom and daughter receiving death threats.
But for parents who love a good Tom Clancy novel or anything with Ford, it's an absorbing work that happens to eerily foreshadow some of today's drone technology and remote political warfare tactics. For mature teens who like historical political/spy thrillers, it can bring up some really interesting discussions about how we portray violence used to justify American patriotism versus the same violence when used to denounce any other country's nationalist fervor. Side note: With a surgeon for a wife and a daughter who crushes it at Monopoly and even a female terrorist plotting alongside the men, it is a rare bit of gender parity amid the bloodshed.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about how films glamorize the role of CIA agents and spies. Do you think real-life spies really live this way? What seems untrue about the way the film portrays government work?
How does the film show us different types of family loyalty and how they play out? Is one kind better or worse?
How does patriotism factor in to which acts of violence in the film is shown as justified and which are shown as terrorism?
- In theaters: June 5, 1992
- On DVD or streaming: December 15, 1998
- Cast: Harrison Ford, Anne Archer, Thora Birch, Sean Bean, Samuel L. Jackson, James Earl Jones
- Director: Phillip Noyce
- Studio: Paramount Pictures
- Genre: Drama
- Topics: Book characters
- Run time: 117 minutes
- MPAA rating: R
- MPAA explanation: Rated R for strong sexuality, and for language and violence.
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