In the film Patriot Games starring Harrison Ford, the terrorist group uses someone inside the police department to obtain the route & arrangements for Sean Miller's transfer. A few lines and glances by Inspector Robert Highland (played by David Threlfall), riding in the van, seem to indicate that he is on Sean's side, or at least understands the IRA cause with the following lines:

Although I disapprove of the things ye've done, Sean, I can't quite bring meself to condemn ya. I can't... because I understand where the hatred comes from. I more than understand it.

When the van comes under siege, the officers don't seem to know what's going on, while Highland just keeps looking at Sean as if they both know exactly what's happening. The two officers then wish to hold out for backup, yet Highland orders them to open the doors. During the discussion afterwards, group leader Kevin O'Donnell seems to believe that Highland is an honest cop, asking him how much the English pay him to turn on his own people (Highland is Irish). O'Donnell then hands a gun to Sean Miller and

Miller promptly executes both Highland and the two officers that were in the van.

I haven't read the book, so I'm not sure about the nuanced context here. The lines may simply be Highland attempting to turn Miller so that he'll testify against the rest of his group, but the glances between them - and the actions of Highland himself - don't really make as much sense in that context. Surely the book would explain such details better than the film.

Was Inspector Highland their man inside (and his fate was only to show how insane Miller is) or was he an honest cop?

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And, yes, I realize that a different inside man was revealed at the end of the movie. That doesn't preclude the Inspector being one also, though, or at least an IRA sympathizer/mole. Highland's fate also foreshadows that of

terrorist ally Dennis Cooley, who is also executed by Miller.


1 Answer 1


Finally found time to scan through the book. In it, Robert Highland is not an Inspector but rather a Sergeant. He is the #2 Scotland Yard officer working with the Sean Miller investigation after Commander Owens, although Owens thought he had a good mind for investigations and would make a fine Inspector some day.

In the book version of events, Highland did not know about the schedule or route - they were picked by Commander Owens. Highland also did not have the conversation with Miller, and

he survived the rescue despite being shot, remaining in critical condition with the bullet lodged near his spine. He then spent several months learning to walk again with a cane and leg braces.

There is no indication in the book that Robert Highland was allied, or even sympathetic to, Kevin O'Donnell or his group of terrorists.

  • Just curious, does accepting your own answer give you +15 rep? If so this could be considered rep abuse. Apr 27, 2017 at 17:01
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    @user00001 - no rep changes that I can see. I've done it a few times on the Sci-Fi SE, although I try to avoid it. Over there it's considered kosher as long as no one else has provided an answer after a reasonable time.
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