At a time when America’s intelligence agencies are being sorely tested, watching Amazon Prime’s new thriller, Jack Ryan, does little to calm our fears. Finding and wiping out the latest terrorist threat, despite claims from President Trump that ISIS has been defeated, resembles a game of Whac-A-Mole. Defeat one insurgent and another one pops up with a creative and deadly plot. Although we know what we are watching is fiction, we hope that there are some real life Jack Ryans out there preventing the next attack.
The series is based on characters created by Tom Clancy, the best selling author of 17 novels, half a dozen made into feature films or TV movies. Clancy died in 2013, but his Jack Ryan, remains a popular hero. John Krasinski, whose breakout role was playing Jim Halpert on the NBC sitcom, The Office, made the transition from comedy to action thriller in 2015’s 13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi, playing a former U.S. Navy Seal who joins the Global Response Team. While Krasinski’s Jack Ryan, is also part of a team, in this case within the CIA, he often finds himself trusting his gut and making decisions that could land him in trouble with the higher ups.
Wendell Pierce and John Krasinski
Ryan is a CIA analyst, holding down a desk job while he follows the money. A series of suspicious transactions catch his eye and he’s convinced they are linked to a dangerous terrorist known as Suleiman. He wants to place a hold on the funds, a tactic he’s convinced will elicit anger on the part of Suleiman and possible force him into the open. However, Ryan’s new boss, James Greer (Wendell Pierce), doesn’t believe Ryan has enough information to warrant that move. Determined, Ryan manages to get the funds frozen anyway. He incurs Greer’s anger, but also his respect as the strategy does indeed force Suleiman’s hand.
Dina Shihabi and Ali Suliman
Suleiman (Ali Suliman) has a back story and slowly over the course of the eight episodes we learn what turned this formerly peace-loving man into a terrorist. Even his wife, Hanin (Dina Shihabi), no longer recognizes the man he has become. When he returns from his travels with a group of fighters, Hanin makes the decision to leave him, taking her children. Her son, Samir (Karim Zein), refuses to go, so Hanin leaves with her two daughters. But leaving Suleiman will not be easy and Hanin must evade the thugs he sends after her. Finally reaching a migrant camp in Turkey, Hanin is horrified to see a TV report that her husband has been responsible for killing with sarin gas more than 300 people in Paris. When her request to obtain passage to Europe is turned down, she tells an American officer working in the camp that Suleiman is her husband. Not believing her, he allows her to leave. Ryan will have to pick up her trail, hoping she will lead them to Suleiman before the terrorist can be responsible for more carnage.
Abbie Cornish and John Krasinski
Chasing terrorists can wreak havoc on your social life and Ryan’s efforts to have a relationship with Cathy Mueller (Abbie Cornish), a physician specializing in infectious diseases, quickly goes off the rails when she finds out he’s been lying to her about his day job. The scars on his back and a fresh wound he picked up in Paris should have tipped her off that he did more than sit behind a desk. But perhaps she’s justified in believing that someone who lies about his job can’t ever be trusted to tell the truth. (In real life, Krasinski is married to actress Emily Blunt, and he won many points from fans when it was disclosed that he flew home every weekend while filming to be with her and his two daughters. Sigh.)
Promoting Jack Ryan on Steven Colbert’s late night show, the comedian taunted Krasinski about not being a credible action hero. It was all in good fun, of course, as the two went at each other in a knock-down and very funny skit. But we all know that action heroes come from some unlikely places. (Liam Neeson?) And Krasinski has nailed this role. He’s everything an action hero should be – honest, hard-working, fearless, principled, and loyal to those he cares about. And he’s bad ass in those fight scenes. Makes those who have played Ryan in the past – Harrison Ford, Alec Baldwin, Ben Affleck, even Chris Pine – fade from view. He’ll be back in season two, this time centering on unrest in South America.
Photos courtesy of Amazon/Paramount