First, Alec Baldwin took the role in 1990’s The Hunt For Red October, followed by a double-header for Harrison Ford in Patriot Games (1992) and Clear and Present Danger (1994). It was another 8 years before Ben Affleck had a chance in The Sum Of All Fears, in 2002, and then even longer before Chris Pine did the same in Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit in 2014.
The last one is the only one I’ve not seen, and it pretty much bombed in the cinema, but as we’re now living in a new Golden Age of Television – thanks to Amazon and Netflix, and studios want to bring the character back, the 2016 announcement came that he was coming to the small screen in the form of Mr Emily Blunt, aka John Krasinski.
With a bit of Men Without Hats’ The Safety Dance in the first episode, starting off in Lebanon, 1983, it’s not long before things get rather UNsafe and it all kicks off.
Fast forward to present day Washington DC and Jack Ryan is off to work. His boss will be James Greer (The Wire’s Wendell Pierce), but as you’ll see, their paths cross before they officially meet, so you know there’s going to be a bit of angst between them, and this sets the path for a bit of a light-hearted tone to balance some of the dark that’s yet to come, because when you’re in the CIA, you’re dealing with a lot of ‘bad dudes’ and it’s not all sunshine and rainbows.
Jack’s tracking Suleiman (Ali Suliman), a sheikh who’s dealing with suspicious financial transactions in Yemen, and who appeals to both Shia and Sunni muslims, so he’s kinda a big deal.
For Jack, there’s always a significant other in attendance in one form or another, and here, he’s sniffing around Dr Cathy Mueller (Abbie Cornish), after paying a flying visit to her Dad’s birthday party.
Initially, just three episodes were available for preview prior to the release date, and I figured that it can get a bit ‘Hollywood stupid’ at times, in that the main guy knows what he needs to do to get the job done while the bigwigs just ignore him. However, this incarnation of Jack Ryan goes into more adult territory than the PG and 12-rated movies we’ve had before, as it throws in f-words and war scenes when required. It’s certainly not for young children, and I would expect a 15-certificate for this. In the US, it’s classed as TV-14, and given that I saw my first 15-certificate cinema film at age 12 (Ade Edmondson’s The Supergrass), I’d say 12 is the right age.
The first episode is reasonable without being revalatory, and at 65 minutes is longer than the others I’ve seen, as it needs a bit extra to deal with the introductions and scene-setting. The subsequent two are very watchable, but don’t really feel like they’re pushing the boat out into must-see territory. There are eight episodes in total, but I’ve only seen three as that’s all that’s been available for preview at this point.
On the plus side, having a full series allows us to witness into the backstory of the terrorists, even humanising them from time to time.
On the downside, I know John Krasinski is ‘hot’ in Hollywood terms right now, particularly after A Quiet Place took stacks of cash at the box office on a shoestring budget, but he just doesn’t have the grizzled look or the gravitas of the character of Ryan. He looks like he’s trying to hold a fart in without anyone noticing, and his sticky-out ears just make me think of Wallace and Gromit!
Having watched the full series, whatever you think early on, nothing changes later. Krasinski still can’t act, Bunk from The Wire is still grumpy, and it all feels little more than a reheated brief season of 24 that we’ve seen countless times over and over.
Jack Ryan Season 1 is released on Amazon Video on August 31st.
Series Score: 6/10
Series Directors: Patricia Riggen, Daniel Sackheim, Carlton Cuse, Morten Tyldum
Series Producers: José Luis Escolar, Nazrin Choudhury, Robert F Phillips
Creators: Carlton Cuse and Graham Roland
Series Writers: Daria Polatin, Patrick Aison, Nazrin Choudhury, Nolan Dunbar, Annie Jacobsen, Stephen Kronish
Music: Ramin Djawadi
Jack Ryan: John Krasinski
James Greer: Wendell Pierce
Cathy Mueller: Abbie Cornish
Suleiman: Ali Suliman
Hanin: Dina Shihabi
Samir: Karim Zein
Teresa: Emmanuelle Lussier Martinez
Marcus: Jovan Adepo
Ubarri: Francisco Denis
Nicolás Reyes: Jordi Mollà
Gloria Bonalde: Cristina Umaña
Sara: Nadia Affolter
Rama: Arpy Ayvazian
Ibrahim: Amir El-Masry
Patrick Klinghoffer: Adam Bernett
Dudayev: Goran Kostic
Noreen Yang: Eileen Li
Tarek Kassar: Mena Massoud
Layla Navarro: Victoria Sanchez
José Marzan: David Norona
Sandrine: Marie-Josée Croze
Amer Soudani: Shadi Jahno
Jabir: Zarif Kabier
Mr. Mueller: Peter Fonda
Reviewer of movies, videogames and music since 1994. Aortic valve operation survivor from the same year. Running DVDfever.co.uk since 2000. Nobel Peace Prize winner 2021.