As a kid, I loved the Jack Ryan movies because they seemed like they offered more realism than Ryan’s British counterpart over at MI6. While Bond was bedding women and drinking martinis, Ryan was sitting at conference room tables, using Harrison Ford’s trademark pointing gesture or Alec Baldwin’s steely blue eyes to convey the drama in the decidedly explosion free room. Was it realistic that an analyst would hop a flight to Columbia and rent a helicopter using his business card? Well… no, but it seemed a lot more realistic than the sort of stuff Bond was up to in that same era.
The allure of Jack Ryan was never his Bond-like escapades, of course, it was his everyman approach. Despite operating within the shadowy realm of clandestine world saving, he serves as the viewer’s proxy — experiencing awe and disbelief in a measure equal to our own, and then rising to the occasion in the way we like to imagine we might as well. Jack Ryan has never been about realism, he’s been about wish fulfillment; wishing we could rise above our station, that we could make a difference, and to some extent, that we’d finally be recognized for our potential, rather than the desks were relegated to.
Of course, all that means the new Amazon series carrying the name “Jack Ryan” has some pretty big shoes to fill.
The new series plays as an original work, with no need to apprise yourself of the films that came prior (to include the Chris Pine movie that carries the same name). Our new Ryan is played by John Krasisnki: a guy you likely respected in “13 Hours” but still call Jim thanks to his tenure on “The Office.” Krasinski’s infectious likability seems fitting for the barely humble Ryan, who plays the role of subordinate, but steps outside of it thanks to the confidence he’s developed over a lifetime of varied service. Krasinski plays that well, as a man that is thought of as the slacker from a workplace sitcom, but still goes home to Emily Blunt every night. You believe Krasinski would back down when confronted by his superiors, and as he begins to assert himself, his progress feels equally believable.