Astronaut Roy McBride (Brad Pitt) travels to the outer edges of the solar system to find his missing father and unravel a mystery that threatens the survival of our planet.
***Attention: Spoiler Alert. Details contained within this review could ruin the ending or parts of the movie for you. You’ve been warned. Read with caution…
“If the cinematic Ryans of the 1990s couldn’t fully sell his incompetence, Krasinski’s version of the character makes a more convincing case that it’s his brains, not his combat skills, that set him apart as an American hero.” – Sophie Gilbert, The Atlantic
“With strong performances from Krasinski and Wendell Pierce plus Abbie Cornish, Dina Shihabi, a slimy agency bureaucrat played by Timothy Hutton, and a complexly constructed villain portrayed by Ali Suliman, this Jack Ryan plants his own flag.” – Dominic Patten, Deadline Hollywood Daily
“Despite the presence of co-creator Carlton Cuse of “Lost,” a show that was nothing if not singular in conception and execution, “Jack Ryan” is generic.” – Matthew Gilbert, Boston Globe
“Though not as thematically rich as some of its geopolitical predecessors, Jack Ryan is a satisfying addition to the genre buoyed by exceptional action sequences and a likable cast.” – Critics Consensus, RottenTomatoes
When CIA analyst Jack Ryan stumbles upon a suspicious series of bank transfers his search for answers pulls him from the safety of his desk job and catapults him into a deadly game of cat and mouse throughout Europe and the Middle East, with a rising terrorist figurehead preparing for a massive attack against the US and her allies.
With the debut of Amazon’s Jack Ryan, John Krasinski will be the fifth actor to play the title character, a CIA analyst introduced in a series of best-selling Eighties novels by Tom Clancy. Krasinski follows Alec Baldwin in The Hunt For Red October, Harrison Ford in Patriot Games and A Clear and Present Danger, Ben Affleck in The Sum of All Fears and Chris Pine in Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit.
The first four episodes of the Amazon series lean more towards the latter theory. It’s an entertaining watch, but owing more to the sheer craft of the people making it than to anything particularly compelling about Ryan himself.
Krasinski is good, though he can be a bit too understated in a role that already trends that way. We’ve again gone back to the beginning of Jack’s CIA career, as a former Wall Street trader who specializes in following terrorists’ financial transactions. Cuse and Roland are definitely playing with the contrast between their leading man’s Jim Halpert persona (Jack spends a lot of time at his desk trying not to react visibly to his erratic boss) and his pumped-up 13 Hours physique (Jack also spends a lot of time examining new and old scars from his adventures). I would suggest drinking every time Jack tells someone that he’s just an analyst, but you’d likely die of alcohol poisoning. Those protestations are inevitably followed by his scene partner speculating about Jack’s hidden depths — “I think you are a wolf,” suggests a French cop, “who plays at being a sheep” — as if to overcompensate for how calm and easygoing he seems.
There’s also a forgettable romance with Abbie Cornish’s Cathy (played variously in the movies by Gates McFadden, Anne Archer, Bridget Moynahan and Keira Knightley), the daughter of Jack’s former Wall Street boss. The more interesting relationship Jack has is with his new boss Jim Greer (Wendell Pierce, following in the large footsteps of James Earl Jones). Greer has been reimagined more thoroughly than Jack, and is now a disgraced and bitter former CIA station chief finding career redemption through the work of this whiz kid he slowly learns to trust. It’s a character to whom Pierce and the writers give a lot of shading — Greer is also a lapsed Muslim reconnecting with his faith after the end of the marriage for which he converted — and Jack Ryan is at its most vibrant in the awkward push-pull between reluctant mentor and wary protégé.
It’s a show that knows exactly what it wants to be and is mostly quite successful at it. There’s no particular need for another Jack Ryan reboot, but nor does the show feel like a hopeless relic from a time before Jack Bauer or Carrie Mathison. The film version of Hunt for Red October is a suspense classic that the rest of the movies and now this show have never come close to equaling, but it set an aspirational goal that has served its follow-ups well, all the way through this latest attempt. Like Jack Ryan himself, the Amazon show is smart and confident and thorough. That’s enough to get the job done.
Nevertheless, Jack Ryan is Jack Ryan, and he has the same job he always had. The character has been roughened around the edges — he’s willing to manipulate another analyst who has a crush on him, and he now has a past on Wall Street, a sure sign of questionable morality. But in the key moments, he’s still the Boy Scout, which is to say the godlike, morally superior American, stretching out his hand to the rest of the world. Some things can’t be rebooted, apparently, no matter how outdated they get.