There is a good chance you’ve heard of Tom Clancy and just as likely you heard the name Jack Ryan. There have been many movies across numerous decades and have including actors portraying him from Harrison Ford, Ben Affleck, Alec Baldwin and Chris Pine. Yet the latest endeavour Tom Clancy’s Jack Ryan is an attempt to bring it to the small screen with all the might of Amazon. With a charming lead, a thrilling efficient plot and some sympathetic and interesting twists it is a compelling watch.
Jack Ryan is a former marine turned CIA financial analyst. He works with bank transactions and when he notices some suspicious activities with transfers, he proposes that a pending attack is inevitable, and one man might be responsible for it. Ryan must convince his sceptical superior before the worse possible outcome take place.
Jack Ryan put its best forth with great casting, especially its lead. It’s hard not to like John Krasinski from nice guy Jim in The Office to silent, protector in The Quiet Place, he is the perfect typecast for the role of Jack Ryan. Authentic, ethical, heroic and yet coming across as intelligent and all easily personified by Krasinski and while perhaps not a stretch for his talents is highly effective here. He’s also super charming which helps too.
The other star is Wendell Pierce for anyone familiar with Suits or The Wire will recognise him instantly. Again, it’s not exactly new territory for the actor, playing a tough as nail, slightly haunted and disgraced CIA manager. But his Muslim faith, allows the typical us versus them mentality to be complicated in a humane way.
Jack Ryan seeks to do this quite a bit especially in its initial episodes portraying the villain as someone who has been a victim of both crimes of war and crimes of prejudice as child and adult. Suleiman admittedly does some cruel and truly evil things, but he is a parent and a brother and someone whose path through life has not been easy nor faith.
Still it’s probably not drama or great characterisation that you come to Jack Ryan for and the first season delivers on double-crosses, plot twists, explosions and thrills and to be fair it never completely lets up. It’s typical geo-political thriller fare. It’s pseudo intelligece doesn’t necessarily need the Tom Clancy name attached for detail analysis as it still seems more confident with gun fights than pie charts. Still it’s a reasonable balance between detail spy craft and action.
As a point of comparison, you would probably best compare Jack Ryan to something like 24 in tone. 24 while an exciting premise with its 24-hour premise always struggled in execution especially when keeping the viewer engaged. Jack Ryan has no such gimmick but milk what 24 did and essentially use its best ideas and moments without dragging.
It’s fair to say though that Jack Ryan’s first season has some problems landing its ending as the complexity of the set-up makes way to more villainous archetypes. It’s equally faire to say that for this wonderful terrorist plot to take place a whole mess of luck and coincidences is required. Still if you’ve gotten to this point in the show the last two episodes that the momentum of the show will carry it through.
The fact that characters and anything resembling development goes out the window is probably more an issue. As mentioned Suleiman just becomes a typically evil terrorist, the plot line with his family complete wasted and a romance side-plot with the delightful Abbie Cornish is just a chance for Krasinski to shine rather than anything resembling plot. The attempt to bring her into the main plot is very heavy handed.
Ultimately the first season of Tom Clancy’s Jack Ryan is compelling TV with a likable cast, some clever twists and sympathetic characterisations it more than makes up for some of the shaky and odd decisions of the final few episodes. Worth a watch.