For many of us born in the 1980s, the Jack Ryan movies were a staple of our childhoods. From “The Hunt for Red October” in 1990 to “Patriot Games” in ’92, and “Clear and Present Danger” in ’94 — I was so young when I first bought into these movies that it wasn’t until maybe the third or fourth watch through of each that I began to realize that the main character in all three films was supposed to be the same guy. In the intervening decades, these movies remained in regular rotation in my house. In fact, it’s only been a few months since my most recent re-watch of Red October.
The character of Jack Ryan has seen a number of resurgences as well — from Ben Affleck’s attempt in 2002, to Chris Pine’s effort in 2014, and most recently, John Krasinski’s excellent and updated portrayal in the Amazon series that bears the Ryan name. Tom Clancy’s analyst-hero may not have the name recognition of James Bond or the fighting chops of Jason Bourne, but that was the allure. He was a normal (but brilliant) guy that wasn’t oozing with self-confidence and didn’t feel like the baddest guy in the room. Jack Ryan gave us a chance to pretend, just for a minute, that maybe we could save the world, if only a helicopter landed in the middle of one our own dinner parties and asked us to come give it a try.
But an equally important element of the Jack Ryan series was always the respect it paid to America’s defense apparatus. These films, and others seemingly inspired by them, often depicted the incredibly difficult and complex decisions at play in the national security sphere with an unspoken respect for the honorable men and women tasked with our nation’s defense (and a disdain for those that scoffed at the idea of honor). Jack Ryan may have had the answers, but his successes were always thanks to the concerted efforts of military and civilian leaders and personnel. The Jack Ryan films suggested to the viewer that we may not always be prepared for new threats, but as long as we have smart, resourceful people working on them, and the world’s most capable war fighters backing those folks up — we’ve always got a fighting chance.