Jack Ryan review: Expertly tense
Chris Bryant | On 31, Aug 2018
Jack Ryan is not about spies, or shootouts, or heroism – it’s about tactics. From the titular CIA agent to his mysteriously disgraced new boss, to his shady new enemy and his struggling family, every moment of Amazon’s Tom Clancy reimagining displays a very considered set of moves and countermoves.
Designed by Krasinski with the idea that Jack Ryan is not an action hero, just a man “not afraid to be scared”, Ryan is a former US Marine, now working as an analyst tracking financial transactions in Yemen. Putting a few pieces of a puzzle together, he ends up on the trail of a terrorist who is using large-scale money laundering tactics to hide his fortune, and his intentions.
Having been portrayed by the likes of Harrison Ford, Ben Affleck, Alec Baldwin, and most recently Chris Pine – Jack Ryan is the name that originally made Tom Clancy a household name, eventually leading to multiple blockbusters, spin-offs, and videogames. In short, John Krasinski’s got some serious shoes to fill. If the first two hours are anything to go by, however, Clancy’s ‘everyday hero’ is in good hands.
Fresh off the success of A Quiet Place, Krasinski allows the shows complex cat-and-mouse game to do the heavy lifting, and the character simply finds his place within that. Until now, no one believed Ryan that this educated, capable new enemy existed, and even then, he’s stuck with new boss Greer – Wendell Pierce (The Wire), who already seems at home in the role – whom no one wants to help because of his unmentionable past.
Spending around half an episode establishing the players, Jack Ryan’s first chapter makes the tactical intent clear, while also deciding that if the bad guys aren’t standard bad guys, they shouldn’t be treated that way. Jack’s white whale is Suleiman, and while he remains in the shadows, the show does spend time with his family, examining their motivations and troubles. It’s a simple move, but really makes an impact in a show where stereotypial antagonists and shootouts could’ve been the norm.
Ending Episode 1 with a passable twist, and a stunning rescue mission, Episode 2 places a little more focus on Jack’s day-to-day work – bank records and studying CCTV tapes – before dousing the audience with another organic but expertly tense action sequence. Provided Amazon’s newest drama can keep up this the balance of characterisation, believable combat scenes, and analytical CIA work, Jack Ryan’s calculations might be right on the money.
Jack Ryan: Season 1 is available exclusively on Amazon Prime Video as part of a Prime membership or a £5.99 monthly subscription.