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TV Review: Tom Clancy's Jack Ryan

SYNOPSIS:  This explosive, globe-trotting thriller finds Marine-turned-rookie CIA analyst Jack Ryan (John Krasinski) sitting behind a desk scrutinizing suspicious financial transactions. Following the money leads Jack and his boss James Greer (Wendell Pierce) to Mousa Bin Suleiman (Ali Suliman), the Syrian-based terrorist mastermind behind a horrific attack in Paris. With assistance from government epidemiologist Dr. Cathy Mueller (Abbie Cornish) and Suleiman’s wife Hanin (Dina Shihabi), Jack becomes an unexpected hero as he races to stop the extremist from unleashing an insidious assault on U.S. soil. An action-packed thrill ride told in eight heart-stopping episodes, Tom Clancy’s Jack Ryan is an up-to-the minute reimagining of the iconic American hero’s first foray as a CIA operative.

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REVIEW: Alec Baldwin. Harrison Ford, Ben Affleck, and Chris Pine have all taken a stab at playing Tom Clancy's heroic CIA analyst Jack Ryan. Over five feature films, each actor has brought their own version of the character with the most recent interpretations trying to turn him into a Jason Bourne-like action hero. While Clancy's novels have seen the character go from rookie analyst to (spoiler alert!) President of the United States, the core essence of the character is that he is more of an everyman who reluctantly becomes so much more. With Amazon Prime's series, John Krasinski finally becomes the ideally cast version of Jack Ryan in what is absolutely the best adaptation of the source material to date. Telling an original story rather than adapting one of the novels featuring Jack Ryan, this series is one of the most thrilling to debut on the small screen and is one of the best shows of 2018.

Having watched four of the eight episodes of Jack Ryan's first season (it has already been renewed for a second run), I can easily say that creators Carlton Cuse (Lost, Bates Motel) and Graham Roland (Lost, Fringe) have created the definitive Tom Clancy television series. Taking the key elements of the novels the series is based on, Cuse and Roland have updated the narrative to our contemporary political climate. With references to ISIS, drone warfare, Korean economics and other globally relevant elments, the series still embraces every aspect that makes Jack Ryan such a likeable hero. Ryan is still a former Marine dealing with a severe spinal injury who changes careers after deployment and becomes an analyst for the CIA. Unlike previous adaptations, Ryan is now haunted by the attack that left him injured and the fallout of what warfare can do to the enlisted. The series stays true to the origin of Jack Ryan with nods to his parents, his military career, and his relationship with Cathy Muller (Abbie Cornish). While the main beats are the same, this is the first time we are seeing a faithful adaptation of Clancy's character and that alone makes this series worth checking out.

The lone mistake with this series may be calling it Tom Clancy's Jack Ryan. While John Krasinski is clearly the central character of the show, there is a lot more going on here. The always great Wendell Pierce (HBO's The Wire) takes over the role of Jim Greer and makes it a wholly unique take on the character previously played by James Earl Jones in three of the feature films. No longer a Vice Admiral or Deputy Director of the CIA, Greer is now a former case officer who was demoted due to actions abroad. The character is much more embattled and bitter at his career path as well as smarting from his recent divorce. Greer and Ryan do not immediately see eye to eye, but there is a budding friendship between the two men and a mutual respect. There is definitely a chemistry between Krasinski and Pierce that will solidify the relationship between these two characters as the series progresses. The writers also made the interesting decision to make Greer a converted Muslim, adding another pertinent layer to the dichotomy of the terrorists they are tasked with tracking down.

There is also the fact that Jack Ryan spends a great deal of time with the terrorists themselves. Without giving away any plot twists, the villain is a mysterious person named Suleiman whom Jack discovers via a series of money transfers that eluded all other authorities. But, unlike the stereotypical Bin Laden-esque bad guys from every other counter-terrorism film, we get to learn how this individual became radicalized and just how far they are willing to go for revenge against the West. There are some thrilling sequences that echo ZERO DARK THIRTY while others could have come straight out of a MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE film. But, the action always supplements the great acting and intricate writing of the series. The actors who portray Suleiman and his inner circle are absolutely the villains of the story but they are not a faceless target like ISIS and have nuance and their own inner struggles, just like Jack Ryan and Jim Greer. There is always a risk when a series tries to make the bad guys sympathetic as you risk turning them into anti-heroes. That is not a problem here as the balance between who is on the side of good and who is not is very easy to determine, even if those characters come close to crossing that line.

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With several recognizable actors populating the cast of the series, this is still John Krasinski's showcase. Coming off his smash hit A QUIET PLACE, Krasinski does a great job taking a purely acting job. He is aided by the expert direction on the pilot episode by Morten Tyldum (THE IMITATION GAME). Tyldum is coming off his derided film PASSENGERS and shows that he could be a potential successor to Christopher McQuarrie on the next MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE thanks to his balance of office politics, large scale action sequences, and just solid filmmaking all around. Not much of this series is flashy or goes for a truly unique style aside from focusing on the narrative and framing the action perfectly. There is no BOURNE shaky camera action nor is there the frenetic pacing of an episode of 24, but the show is just as exhilarating as both.

Tom Clancy's Jack Ryan has already been renewed for a second season which will add Noomi Rapace to the cast. Clearly, Amazon is confident that this show is not so much a show but the "ten hour movie" promised by Krasinski in early interviews. The show is a testament to the writing of Tom Clancy and is the perfect realization of his themes and characters realized for a contemporary time frame. If you are a fan of 24 or Homeland, this is the show for you. I cannot say more how much I love this show and I am waiting with bated breath to watch the rest of the first season. 

Jack Ryan premieres August 31st on Amazon Prime.

Source: JoBlo.com

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