Review by J.T. Johnson
Over the years, there have been many attempts to bring late author Tom Clancy’s Jack Ryan into the film world. Alec Baldwin initially played him in the awesome adaptation of “The Hunt for Red October”, though Sean Connery really stole that show. Then, Harrison Ford picked up the mantle as an older, more experienced Jack in “Patriot Games” and “Clear and Present Danger” before Ben Affleck rebooted the franchise with “The Sum of All Fears” and Chris Pine rebooted things again with the absolutely forgettable “Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit”.
Now, Amazon has crafted an original series starring Clancy’s damn near infallible hero. You see, that’s the character’s biggest flaw as Clancy created a character that is more of an ideal character than an actual living, breathing human being. If you can accept that he is a big ole boy scout, then you can get behind Ryan.
Thankfully, John Krasinski channels Ford in his portrayal of a character that may be morally unbendable but still has plenty of vulnerabilities. Before I get to the good stuff, though, I must observe a few negative criticisms. First, the show doesn’t attempt to do anything to bring something new to the spy genre. If you’ve seen any of the Ryan films or if you remember Kiefer Sutherland’s “24”, then you know what to expect with this show.
Beyond this, there is also a weird side storyline involving a drone pilot. It only has one incidental connection to the main story before going in its own direction and petering out altogether by the end of episode five. It was really an unnecessary plot point and I’m not quite sure why the filmmakers felt that it was needed.
Those criticisms aside, though, the show is still a thrilling piece of action entertainment. Each episode seems to contain at least one action set piece and most of them are executed very well. The filmmakers did such a good job that there were moments where I forgot I was watching a television show instead of a big budget film.
The cast is also pretty amazing all around. Krasinski’s ability to be a straight leading man and a more down-to-earth human being is the perfect combination for Jack Ryan. He also has good chemistry with Wendell Pierce as James Greer, Ryan’s boss. This chemistry is maintained even when the two characters are not always getting along as Greer has been around for awhile and Ryan still has a lot to learn about how the real world of counterterrorism truly works.
Abbie Cornish is also great as Cathy Mueller, Ryan’s love interest who also has a fair bit to do herself by the time the season ends. She is a strong, independent woman and it is easy to see why Ryan falls for her. The chemistry between Krasinski and Cornish is also a high mark for the show.
One surprising element of the show’s first season was the time it spent on setting up its villain. Ali Suliman plays Mousa Bin Suleiman and he is not just your typical terrorist as we learn about his past and how he actually became an Islamic extremist. It was great to see a three dimensional villain instead of just someone that the good guys have to stop.
Ultimately, the first season of “Jack Ryan” is great spy entertainment even if it can’t quite escape its own formula. This is due to a show that spends just as much time developing its characters as it does its explosions. I will definitely be tuning in when the already greenlit season two premieres.