DVD review: “Jack Ryan” (2018)
Created by: Carlton Cuse & Graham Roland based on charaters created by Tom Clancy
Featuring: John Krasinski, Abbie Cornish, Wendell Pierce, Ali Suliman, Dina Shihabi, Amir El-Masry
Jack Ryan: “I am just an analyst.”
Reinvention is a word that is as good as any to describe the new series about the now seemingly ageless Tom Clancy created hero Jack Ryan who returns to the small screen this month in the new series from Amazon Studios who are hopeful of a hit that can become a long terms series much like their rival, HBO’s “Game of Thrones” (2011-2019). They seem to have, initially anyway, hit all the right notes by casting a youngish lead in John Krasinski who is extra hot right now because of his role as star/writer/director of one of this years movie hits “The Quiet Place” (2018) as well as experienced show runner Carlton Cuse and talented director Morten Tyldum. It is evident that the entire production team has taken some time to ensure that this new version, of a thirty year old charater, is not only relevant but is refreshed with a step away from his origins while maintain the very things that made him such a popular character in the late 1980s through to the 2000s in film as well as most importantly in the novels that he appeared within.
This first season follows the titular CIA analyst as he is wrenched from the security of his desk job into the field after discovering a string of dubious bank transfers, which is being carried out by a rising Islamic terrorist named Suleiman.
Some of the constructed narrative within this new show should be familiar to those that have followed at least the movies which is fun to see but also is a nod towards those important movies that helped make Ryan such a popular character within pop culture. One of the most obvious elements is that like the character from “The Hunt for Red October” (1990) he cannot keep his opinions to himself, this happens in this reboot at least twice which is a fun callback to the Alec Baldwin interpreted character, which made him come to the attention to all of the big brass at the hastily convened meetings in both versions.
The strength in this new series as well as reboot of the hero is to totally reconstruct his origins so he fits within the new paradigm that exists within the military as well as politics and the intelligence agencies since September 11th.. The show runners have these factors as the very reason for Ryan’s existence as well as the age he is now, where his career has taken him and his driving force for working within the CIA at all. Also there is a strong element of family that exists within the narrative of both the terrorist as well as the protagonists which is evident from the opening scene set in the 1980s. There is also a strong thread related to a Middle Eastern terrorist plot that is tied to the migration of refugees through Europe. In a little bit of unoriginality there is also an often told theme that revolves around the idea that the US has created its own enemies through intimidation, the interference in other nations as well as the number of wars it has fought, killing innocents thereby creating their own enemies such as the brothers that exist in this first season.
Another aspect of this season is the introduction of the US drone pilot which becomes a third tier plot to the main narrative. We witness this person at work as well as the stresses, pressures including his impotence that comes his role, as they have less actual freedom in their rules of engagement than the ‘boots on the ground’ soldiers may have which in this show leads to some very unusual as well as cathartic decision making by the pilot. This is not the first time that drone pilots have been the basis of television or film, there has been “Drone” (2017), “Eye in the Sky (2015) and “Good Kill” (2014) to name just a couple but here in “Jack Ryan” it works much better as part of a bigger story that may continues into a second season, which I for one hope it does.
As the character of Jack Ryan has been around in film sice 1990, played so well by Alec Baldwin, Harrison Ford, Ben Affleck as well as to a lessor extent Chris Pine this new incarnation was always going to be a challenge for the producers as well as the actor who eventually took on this now well known role. The trick, which has been carried off was to cast an actor of an appropriate age, as well as talent who would not overshadow the character of Ryan himself. I have never really seen John Krasinski appear in anything that I would have thought would translate to “Jack Ryan”, but after “The Quiet Place” I found myself coming around, seeing him in action I am a convert. Krasinski seems to have taken the best parts of the previous portrayals, then with this new story morphed them into an original character who is not just one thing, but a real mixture that makes you believe he may really exist. Not only that but having to portray someone with very physical scars as well as mental/emotional ones means he has to walk a tightrope over eight very tense episodes that are never about one story but many elements that make up a whole. What the writers and producers have given Krasinski to play to is an actual arc that sees him start of at one point in his life but end up at a very different one that also hints to a future that many now established characters can be a part of. The two main supporting characters are also familiar in the Tom Clancy world they are James Greer and Cathy Mueller portrayed here by Wendell Pierce and Abbie Cornish respectively who are given something previous incarnations have not, that is something very different play as well as the gift of being able to butt heads and question the almighty Ryan in ways that question his motives as well as his right to be the central part of his won story. Pierce and Cornish bring their immense talents to this series that are welcome with their own arcs in play that are not completely resolved but you know they will be returning fully loaded for a series 2.
The decision to limit this new series to only eight episodes is one that is welcome after all the streaming shows that are now produced which are bloated so that there is too much filler, making them tedious, instead of leaving audiences wanting more there is a feeling of offering them less tighter narratives and a definite needing to a plot or plots. This first series really does introduce the titular character to a new audience as well as an old one hoping that this will stick, and that we will have an actor as well as producers that recognise how important it is to not only be in the present but to have an eye firmly on the future, oh and if you could keep Krasinski that would be helpful as well.
Whether or not this new series hangs together fully at this stage does not matter, it is an introduction to a character many know from books or movies, its success largely rests on the leading man, his support, the conflict he encounters and if there is enough believability to push forward into subsequent seasons, I believe it does. My only concern is that with the way this seasons story has been taken from current events (at least they were when production began) that if this is the course that continues then it can almost be seen as a little redundant if only because of the news media covering the same thing but in real time. With the next season possibly taking place in, or involving Russia the story has to be tight but a bit more original so as to keep a fresh feeling that will keep audiences engaged but I am sure the producers realise this after these initial eight episodes.
If you are looking for an engaging story that is able to be digested over a relatively short amount of time this is for you, it has great actors, engaging characters as well as a pretty good relatable and mostly current story which is a change from superheroes and cop shows that permeate the environment currently.
“Jack Ryan” is streaming on Amazon right now.
- Pilot:Low-level CIA financial analyst Jack Ryan comes to believe that $9 million of aberrant financial transactions are connected to a new Yemeni terrorist leader named Suleiman. Jack meets medical doctor Cathy Mueller before James Greer, his tough new boss in the Terror, Finance, and Arms Division (T-FAD), whisks him away to Yemen, which is part of the Counterterrorism Center (CTC) of the CIA.
- French Connection:Jack reconnects with Cathy, and Suleiman’s wife Hanin is concerned about the armed terrorists he has brought to their home. Jack and Greer figure out that their target is Mousa Bin Suleiman, a French national. His phone records lead them to an apartment outside of Paris, where Suleiman’s brother Ali is transferring funds
- Black 22:In pursuit of Ali, Jack and Greer learn that he is traveling to a rendezvous point in southern France. Hanin escapes with her daughters, but Suleiman sends men after her. One kills the other and attempts to rape Hanin.
- The Wolf:Suleiman starts an insurrection within ISIS and imprisons its leader, consolidating control of the organization and taking control of 12 hostage physicians from Doctors Without Borders. Jack and French intelligence officer Sandrine Arnaud track Ali to a remote gas station; Sandrine is killed in a shootout with Ali, whom Jack shoots and kills in self-defense.
- End of Honor:Hanin requests political asylum for herself and her daughters in a refugee camp in Turkey, naming Suleiman as her husband and attracting the attention of the CIA. In the aftermath of the Paris church attack, Jack manages to make contact with Suleiman using the messaging board on a video game, posing as Ali. Suleiman detects the ruse, but Jack confirms that Hanin has indeed left her husband, and tells Suleiman that Ali is dead.
- Sources and Methods:Jack and Greer, with aid from a Turkish sex trafficker, track Hanin and her daughters to the Turkish coast, where they dispatch Suleiman’s henchman who has been pursuing the women. Greer reveals that he was PNG’d from Karachi because he had killed his asset, a Pakistani army officer, who was going to turn him in to the authorities to be tortured and killed. Meanwhile, Victor learns that one of his “terrorist” targets had been misidentified, and travels to Syria to make amends with the family.
- The Boy:Cathy is questioned about her Ebola report, and is furious to discover that Jack works for the CIA. Meanwhile, CIA officials debate on whether to capture Suleiman or kill him in an airstrike. Jack and Greer try to convince their superiors to settle on a covert ground assault to do the former, as well as extracting Hanin’s son, Samir.
- Inshallah:Pickett, as well as other high-ranking government officials, is quarantined for exposure to Ebola. Suleiman arrives in the US with Samir to carry out another attack, this time a release of cesium into the ventilation system of Washington Memorial Hospital, where Pickett is being confined.