JACK RYAN IS BACK. AGAIN.
It’s THE most elusive thing in the Media Biz: HOW to ‘nail’ the Clancy-verse Jack Ryan Character on film. For a new Generation. Answer: Do it on Television! But not just ANY Television: AMAZON PRIME!
Yes. Jack Ryan! What do you mean you’ve never heard of him? CIA analyst everyman academic come reluctant field agent; Family man; Middle class Americana at its finest; aged 30-50, depending on iteration. Deals with magnified threats culled from current affairs mags in initially over-long/complex novels then on slightly over-crammed or over-simplified movies? That guy. As in Red October! Patriot Games! Sum of All Fears! Played by Alec Baldwin, Harrison Ford, Ben Affleck AND Chris Pine. More reboots and origin stories than Batman, Spider-Man or John Connor! And he’s back. Again. IN A NEW REBOOT ORIGIN STORY! Starring John Krasinski, from THE OFFICE. Here are our first impressions of the series..
- It’s a competent thriller and drama: very engaging.
- Immersive: you really get into the places a CIA analyst would go, from desk to field.
- There’s a unifying plot arc, obviously but you could, in theory, watch any episode and enjoy it on own merits / leave it for a bit before coming back / binge watch it all.
- Kransinski (now surely in hotter demand post ‘Quiet Place‘? So Amazon timed this amazingly well) nails the Ryan persona: awkward academic yet pervasive competence; everyman with moral code to match but ambitious, nonetheless.
- There is quite a balanced approach to the villainy on display; this is not leftist anti American propaganda but neither is it a one sided narrative. You get to know why a terrorist follows their path; yet they are still an evil villain to be defeated. It’s unusually mature and literate and arguably beyond the kind of story-telling method Clancy would have attempted? Interesting.
- So, yep. An entertaining, immersive, rewarding, stimulating watch.
- There’s an element of missed opportunity here. If you now have the luxury of a whole television series? Then why NOT adapt Clancy, PROPERLY?
- This was a chance to take the novels’ detailed, brilliant, highly crafted, pulpy yet erudite plots and merge those with the more refined emotional writing sensibilities of today’s zeitgeist. It was also THE time to at least TRY making a period piece and see if THAT could work as a thriller?
- Being current is not the sole criteria for tension or relevance. And if you MUST set it ‘now’ then why not jump LATER into Ryan’s career?
- An adaptation of EXECUTIVE ORDERS (mooted for screen a few years back, with George Clooney taking the lead or Alec Baldwin returning) would have made for truly daring and groundbreaking television, whilst satisfying fans of Clancy’s Ryan mythology. Think House of Cards but with a good guy trying to navigate crises in Washington and still giving you action and late night workathon anlaysis at a CIA crisis desk over coffee and between cute family middle class imagery. That.
- The stuff the Harrison Ford Ryan films (Patriot Games and Clear and Present Danger..and I like to think of Air Force One as a kind of ‘secret’ Ryan film) did so well. It’s missing here and in part because that cinematic magic from directors such as John McTiernan/ Phillip Noyce is absent, too.
- That cinematic deficit should in theory here have at least allowed greater luxury in the tone and purpose and detail of the Ryan method at work. The kind of thing one can only show in split second in a movie via quick shot a desk etc; could in theory be a whole episode of a television epic? But no. We don’t get THAT much more from this than a 2 hour film counterpart.
You arguably get more from 4 hours of Ford or even 2 of Affleck in the part than an entire 8 with poor old John Krasinski. And that’s partly because John’s Ryan is placed in circumstances that could be any geo-political /terror/thriller show of the week. Why call it Jack Ryan or Tom Clancy if in effect it..sort of isn’t?
Despite Krasinski capturing the essence and charm of the character; despite the fidelity to parts of backstory yet again in origin mission reboot format..this still is not quite truly Clancy’s vision on screen. But they’ll get there, no doubt? Series 2 has been commissioned already and is in casting / pre-production. Suspect this show could run and run and with it, perhaps, so Jack Ryan will indeed become more like the Clancy creation.
CLEARED FOR DUTY. A SOLID IF UNINSPIRED, PERFECTLY CRAFTED, COMPETENT, IMMERSIVE PIECE OF STREAMING TELEVISION. And whilst it’s NOT for everyone (some violent scenes, needlessly so, I would argue): there are moments to show your adolescent /student kids and thereby inspire them to copy the thing Jack Ryan does so well both as character / whichever actor plays him: WORK 🙂