“Patriot Games” was the second Tom Clancy novel to be adapted for the big screen after the huge critical and commercial success of “The Hunt for Red October.” But in the process of bringing Clancy’s heroic character Jack Ryan back for another adventure, many changes ended up taking place. John McTiernan stepped away from the director’s chair and Phillip Noyce came on board, Alec Baldwin was replaced by Harrison Ford, and Basil Poledouris, who composed the score for “Red October,” stepped aside for James Horner who at that time had become an A-list composer who was very much in demand.
La La Land Records has now released a remastered and expanded soundtrack to “Patriot Games” which contains a lot of music that was never before released, source cues and Clannad’s song “Harry’s Game.” The film has Jack Ryan stopping an IRA assassination attempt on the Royal Family, but that soon makes him a target of a renegade faction of terrorists and especially Sean Miller (Sean Bean) whose brother Ryan ended up killing. In scoring this action and suspense film, Horner creates a surprisingly understated score that features lovely Irish and Gaelic flavors, and he combines both electronic and orchestral music to highlight the movie’s action set pieces.
Now most action scores start off with a thunderous main title to get the audience all hyped up, but the main title for “Patriot Games” is surprisingly subtle and not the least bit bombastic. This turned out to be an excellent move on Horner’s part as this film is a more personal one for the character of Jack Ryan than “The Hunt for Red October.” Among my favorite tracks are “Attempt on the Royals” which underscores Jack Ryan’s heroic save and the senseless loss of Sean Miller’s brother, “The Hit” in which Jack rushes after his family to save them from the vengeful Sean, and “Assault on Ryan’s House” where IRA terrorists make their last effort to eliminate the brilliant CIA analyst. I’ve always been a sucker for adrenaline pumping movie music, and Horner is one of the masters at composing it.
But at the same time, I also really liked the low key music he comes up with like “Closing Credits” which is a piece of music that’s actually great to fall asleep to. I kept thinking it was one of the singers from Clannad who did the backing vocals on this soundtrack, but it turns that it was actually Maggie Boyle and her voice is nothing short of heavenly. Horner is great at finding the humanity in the characters that inhabit an action movie, and his music can be both thrilling and highly emotional at the same time. Not all film composers can pull off that feat.
Among the previously unreleased tracks, it was nice to see the track “Sean Obsessing in Jail” on here as Horner gets at what is eating away at Sean’s as his obsession for avenging his brother’s death continues to grow, and I also got a kick out of hearing “Cooley Escapes” which follows a minor character in the film as he suddenly discovers that he is under police surveillance. As for the source cues which includes the “Washington Post March,” some traditional Irish music and some pieces composed by Mozart, I’m not sure how necessary these additions were to this edition of the “Patriot Games” soundtrack. At the same time, those additions proves just how serious La La Land Records is about giving fans the most complete soundtrack to a movie they could ever hope to have.
One interesting thing about this particular La La Land Records release is that it doesn’t contain the original commercial release of the soundtrack. Other releases of theirs have the original commercial releases of the soundtracks on the second disc as a kind of bonus for those who liked the original version as it is. But in the end, I guess they decided not to include it because everything from the original release is on these two discs anyway. I do need to point out, however, that there are two different versions of “Closing Credits” on this expanded version; one is listed as the film version and the other is listed as the album version, and the difference between the two is that the film version is in English and the other one is not. Regardless of which one you find yourself liking more, it is great to have both versions here.
But like many La La Land Records releases, it does come with a booklet detailing the making of the soundtrack and the movie it is based on. The booklet to “Patriot Games” is entitled “The Pluck of the Irish,” and it is written by Jim Lochner who is the managing editor of FSM Online and the owner of the website FilmScoreClickTrack.com. Now I have reviewed several La La Land Records releases before, but the booklet for “Patriot Games” is one of the best they have ever put together as Lochner covers just about every single detail about the movie we could ever hope to learn about.
Among the memorable passages are why Neufeld didn’t bring McTiernan back for “Patriot Games,” how Baldwin reacted to not getting cast in the film, and how Clancy was constantly upset about the changes being made in bringing his book to the big screen. In describing Horner’s score, Lochner writes that it is a “subtle, understated score that percolates underneath the surface, conveying the tension of a family under siege and the terrorists’ patriotic Irish roots.” I think that’s the perfect description for the music of “Patriot Games,” and Lochner, in writing about the other tracks, more than makes the case for why Horner should have received more attention for it when the movie came out in 1992.
So once again, La La Land Records has given film music fans another remastered and expanded soundtrack that is a must buy. In a career that has seen him create unforgettable film scores for “Titanic,” “Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan” and “Glory,” Horner’s score for “Patriot Games” still stands out as one of his most unique. It is at times an understated and at other times a pulse pounding listen, and the Irish elements he puts in reminds us of what a masterful composer he can be. Now it has the soundtrack edition it has long deserved.