With flashing gunfire, roaring explosions, Tom Clancy’s Jack Ryan, released and produced by Amazon Studios, is exactly what you would expect it to be, but nothing more.
Ryan, the most beloved character by prolific war fiction writer Tom Clancy, gets a renewal in the form of John Krasinski, best known for portraying Jim Halpert in the American version of The Office. With the most recent film installment in 2014 by Chris Pine, Jack Ryan details the beginnings of the famous character.
The show follows the story of Ryan as a State Department financial analyst responsible for keeping tabs on Yemen. A Boston College graduate and an excellent statistician, Ryan harbors a past as a marine but works contentedly at his office job. Discovering unusual transactions that he suspects might be linked to terror activity, Ryan teams up with James Greer (Wendell Pierce), their new director demoted from the front lines, to investigate further into the transactions. Unwillingly thrown into action, Ryan acts as the reluctant hero, traveling through the Middle East trying to unravel a terrorist threat against the United States.
The show immediately launches into a tense atmosphere where people begin spouting out many acronyms that are never explained, serving only to make what they are talking about sound very important and very threatening. That take on character conversations really embodies the flaws of the show—all show, no substance. Jack Ryan fulfills all its duties as a member of the political/war thriller genre with fire, guns, and grenades, but does not deliver enough on plot and character building to make it particularly outstanding. The storyline in Jack Ryan feels linear. Although the show does try to throw in some twists, much of the plot has simply become predictable, and the audience is not as invested in the outcomes of the characters as they should be. Characters suffer from the lack of complex motivations, leading to them all feeling flat and typecast.
Krasinski’s take on the famous character, although notably different from the portrayals by Alec Baldwin, Harrison Ford, Ben Affleck, and Chris Pine, has an affability decidedly derived from the actor’s own likeability and charisma. Krasinski has a very real take on the character, showing a man who is dedicated to the path of righteousness and heroism, but not without fears and hesitations in the face of great danger. Even with the fantastic portrayal by Krasinski, Ryan can sometimes feel generic and predictable. Ryan maintains indifference in the face of all temptation, always choosing to do the right and honorable thing, but precisely that lack of desire and greed—very human traits—makes him too perfect a hero. Ryan’s heroism, although unwilling, seems too perfect and his motivations too one-dimensional to really establish him as a strong character. His dogged goodness makes him one of the masses of the typical all-American hero that plagues the genre so often that they become almost indistinguishable from each other.
The story between Ryan and his love interest, Cathy Mueller (Abbie Cornish), seems like an unnecessary side plot that only distracts from the main, action-filled storyline. The two actors do not seem to have much chemistry, and the persistent interest that Ryan has towards Cathy after only a short, five-minute conversation at her father’s party seems contrived and odd, especially since he goes to Yemen and gets embroiled in an armed siege immediately after.
Fans of Tom Clancy and of the genre will find this new installment enjoyable enough. The cast really carries the show through their personalities, vitalizing a plot that would be boring otherwise. Fans get the action that they expect, with the standard gunfights and operations expected from the genre. The show feels like an in-the-moment high that becomes almost immediately forgettable.
With all the flashy effects and fighting, Jack Ryan ultimately lacks the substance to make it truly great.
Featured Image by Amazon