Jack Ryan is one of the last tentpoles of modern fiction characters ever written around the Cold War era by late Tom Clancy. It’s the spy/marine/analyst character which has been around for many decades but never got its due if compared to peers such as James Bond, Ethan Hunt and Jason Bourne. He has been portrayed by stalwarts like Alec Baldwin, Harrison Ford, Ben Affleck, Chris Pine and now Ryan Krasinski.
To put it mildly, the spy genre has become convoluted with too many movies and TV shows playing out incessantly. Something drastically different needed to done to come in the reckoning of the box office.
This post is aimed at giving a review of "TOM CLANCY'S JACK RYAN", the characters appeal and USP of the show. The series is now streaming to Amazon Prime subscribers all over the globe.
WHO IS JACK RYAN ?
Jack Ryan is a CIA ace who works in operations and analysis wing. Jack has also served as a US Marine which gives him sizeable experiences in the field with combat and military intelligence. This is Jack Ryan's capability which other spies in movies don’t have. He holds a Doctorate in Economics making him the only spy in popular culture who holds a PhD while being a hero and crusader. From purely trivia perspective, Ryan is a graduate of a humbler Boston College rather than a Harvard or Cornell. My view is that he is a working class guy as compared to other peers in popular fiction. In Tom Clancy's novels and the films Ryan is a dedicated patriot who is not afraid of questioning his seniors on issues where he is highly opinionated. In the film "Clear and Present Danger" he threatens the US President himself when he gets to know of his involvement in an illegal war in Columbia. There is also an unflinching commitment to saving the innocent, he is far more sensitive to saving lives than most lead characters who operate in a similar universe. It is these mannerisms which set him apart. Also, in comparison, Ryan is more of a executive who is seen occupying office cubicles and working in research, doing the spade work in the "intelligence community". This is unlike his peers James Bond, Ethan Hunt and Bourne who are always on the run and are seen crisscrossing the globe.
Ryan is more of a consensus builder rather than a rebel or an outlier, but he does question authority regularly. He is also married to an equally cerebral woman Cathy Muller who is a leading medical practitioner. In many ways Ryan is the 'straight and arrow' crusader rather than a suave, sexy protagonist who has out of the world gadgets. He has more tact, patience and thought rather than just action, jumps and stunts. He also has Jim Greer as his mentor in CIA. Greer is the spiritual guide for Ryan who guides him every step of the way.
The Traditional Template of Hollywood spy thrillers
Almost 70% of spy movies show the enemy of the US as stupid and uninformed. They are shown as a third world civilization with a splinter group getting funds from fundamentalist groups. In Jack Ryan, this is evolved into a new direction with ISIS being shown indirectly through the eyes of Ali Suleiman. Here it is more of a startup with phenomenal financial understanding looking to hit The United States. It’s this that stands out from the regular plots in this genre of storytelling
The Plot of "TOM CLANCY'S JACK RYAN"
The show begins with an underground operation to hunt down a radical Islamist terrorist who is known only by the name of Suleiman. Ryan who is just working in the analysis division finds some unusually large financial transactions being routed to Middle Eastern countries. The trail leads to Mousa Bin Suleiman who is an investment banker turned radical terrorist in Syria. Suleiman is planning a series of attacks across various cities involving nerve gases and bioterror weapons. Ryan along with his team and international allies rallies across Yemen, Syria, Germany, The US, Paris to hunt Suleiman to prevent a cataclysmic disaster which might kill millions.
The team and Ryan also witness a terror attack in a Paris church which is possibly the most intense terror attack shown in recent times on TV. In this hypersensitive story, he does manage to romance Dr Cathy Muller who too is a medical practitioner with deep knowledge of viruses and contagions. Jack also works with Jim Greer to execute his plan. The show also gives ample time to unravel the character arc of Suleiman and his family. In fact, in some episodes Suleiman steals the thunder from Ryan quite convincingly.
Character Sketches :
John Krasinski (Dr Jack Ryan): Dr Ryan is a man who keeps sniffing and smelling to look for potential threats in the global order to the US and other countries. Krasinski is decent in his looks and mannerisms but falls short of the portrayal of Ford, Alec Baldwin and others. He is a more youthful Jack Ryan than most. He does bring a sense of sensitivity to his character for the oppressed. There are multiple times in the story where he feels the pain and the nightmares of all the lives he was not able to save in his years as a marine.He is amiable, fun and ridiculously human in certain difficult situations. Jack Ryan here wants to stick to serving the US and pursue Dr Cathy but also catch Suleman and his people. Frankly, Krasinski has to do more to leave an impact. He is completely outclassed by Israeli actor Ali Suleman who plays Mousa Suleiman, the main antagonist.
Ali Suleiman (Mousa Suleiman): Suleiman is the centre of the story and its his pursuit which puts the entire CIA Machinery to work across the globe. Compellingly portrayed by Israeli actor Ali Suleiman, Mousa comes out as the finest etched out character in the series. In fact, he is better written than Ryan himself. It is scary and fascinating at the same time to see Suleiman who is a Credit Suisse analyst who gives a research paper on digital banking to a leading bank in Paris in 2001 turn into a dreaded terrorist and cold blooded killer. It’s his background story and character arc which is the showcase of the TV series. One gets an in depth look at Suleiman’s financial acumen and terror planning capabilities as episodes go by. He is usually far ahead of the curve with planning as good as the CIA if not better. His lifestyle as a reformer of sorts in Syria, the way he treats his men and his own family is quite intriguing. His wife played by Dina Shahibi as the submissive and yet rebellious woman in a radical household is superb. In fact, the show spends a lot of time with her and her escape from Syria. This is Ali Suleiman’s first big Hollywood outing and he displays multi lingual skills by speaking French, Arabic and English with ease and confidence. To me, Jack Ryan will be microwaving popcorns if he doesn’t have an Ali Suleiman to hunt.
Jim Greer ( Wendell Pierce): Jim Greer is the professional Godfather of Jack Ryan. Even in the books, Tom Clancy has shown him as the man who guides Ryan in difficult situations, navigates him through the politics of the US Administration and also takes him along all major operations. Jack Ryan grows up in the intelligence community under the wings of Greer. This character has been played by legendary James Earl Jones and Wendell Pierce had to fill in his shoes. Pierce doesn’t bring the aura of Jones but he does bring in sincerity and gives an evolved touch to his relationship with Ryan.
The Supporting Cast :
The rest of the cast rounds up with Abbie Cornish as Dr Cathy Muller, Timothy Hutton as Greer’s boss and other supporting roles. Cornish as Dr Cathy could have done more, she doesn’t have any depth in her character as such. Hutton is more like a showpiece as well. On the other hand, Suleiman’s wife Hanin played by Dina Shihabi is far more in depth and entertaining.
Final Verdict :
JACK RYAN is a promising show to say the least. Its writers have done a great job in creating Ryan for current times. But the main antagonist clearly is the trophy winner here rather than the protagonist.