Cormac Deane

Radical Conservatism in Patriot Games

Year: 2006

Keywords: , , ,


Birkbeck College, University of London
(at time of presentation)

Personal profile:

Cormac Deane Profile October 2014 (pdf)

Cormac Deane is Lecturer in Culture and Media Studies at the Institute of Art, Design and Technology. His research includes screen aesthetics and theory, digital media, systems theory, legal theories of sovereignty and exception, and the depiction of ‘terrorism’ in contemporary media.

He is the translator of the final work of Christian Metz, L’énonciation impersonnelle, which will be published by Columbia University Press in 2015. Recent articles have appeared in Television Aesthetics and Style (Bloomsbury 2013), The Journal of Sonic Studies and Special Effects: New Histories, Theories, Contexts (BFI 2013). He is also the author of The Field Day Archive, a book-length description of the activities and archives of an Irish theatre and publishing company.

Cormac runs the Irish Screen Studies website, which is associated with the Irish Screen Studies Seminar. See and on Twitter @IrishScreenStud.

A recipient of the Government of Ireland Postdoctoral Fellowship Award Scheme of the Irish Research Council in 2013-14, he received his PhD in 2010 at Birkbeck College, University of London, where he was a member of the London Consortium.

Cormac can be contacted at


'Radical Conservatism in Patriot Games'. Irish Films, Global Cinema. Martin McLoone and Kevin Rockett eds. Dublin: Four Courts, 2007.

See also:



The collision of American and Irish political values that takes place in the 1992 film Patriot Games (Philip Noyce), and in the 1987 novel of the same name by Tom Clancy, reveal an unexpected strain of radical politics in American political conservatism. While Patriot Games displays many of the characteristics that we expect to find in the action thriller genre, such as an active hero, the use of violence to resolve conflict and a climactic showdown, it is also strongly inflected with certain aspects of American conservatism, notably the valorization of the US military and an acute awareness of terrorism as a threat to American values. However, the political lineage of the action hero as the creator of his own destiny can be traced back to the revolutionary ethos that gave birth to the United States and its political traditions. This contradiction is present but generally unacknowledged in American film genres such as the action thriller, the technothriller and the western. In Patriot Games Irish political radicalism/terrorism provides a highly ambiguous and volatile counterpoint to the political values that animate the film’s American hero. Thus the mix of radicalism and conservatism that often lies occluded in the works of Tom Clancy, who is held by many, including himself, to be an arch-conservative, is thrown into relief when he brings his action hero ethics onto the Irish political scene.