I’ve never been keen on remakes and reboots, so when I first heard Amazon Prime Video was planning to bring Tom Clancy’s Jack Ryan to the small screen I was less than enthusiastic.
As a huge fan of Clancy’s original novels – I bailed out about the time of Executive Orders – I was keenly aware of how mixed an affair Hollywood’s adaption of the books had been.
The highs of The Hunt for Red October and Patriot Games were followed by the lacklustre Clear and Present Danger, which ditched most of Clancy’s multi-layered storyline, the terrible prequel/reboot The Sum of All Fears and, most recently, Chris Pine’s weak and insipid Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit.
And I was even less keen when it became clear the new series would be ‘inspired by’ the books rather than adapting any of them.
Yes, few of the books could be easily told in the present day, but the success of The Americans, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy and Deutschland 83 shows there is a global market for period spy dramas, and it would have been nice to see season-length adaptations of Clancy’s work.
But by the time I’d finished the first episode of Amazon’s series, my concerns and gripes has fallen aside.
Series creators Carlton Cuse and Graham Roland have delivered a thrilling and intelligent action series that is very much in the spirit of the original, often complex, globe-spanning plots and, as with the late author’s work, is highly relevant to today’s geopolitics and security concerns.
Inevitably with a ‘clean slate’ approach, the series is a relaunching of the characters but Jack’s backstory – former Marine who survives a near-fatal helicopter crash before embarking on a career in the financial sector before entering the CIA as an analyst – remains intact.
John Krasinski’s performance as Ryan delivers on early promises that the character would be closer to Harrison Ford’s ‘everyman’ portrayal in Patriot Games and Clear and Present Danger than to the more action hero approach taken in the final two films.
James Greer, nicely played by Wendell Pierce, has apparently had a significant demotion. No longer a widely respected Vice Admiral or the ‘father figure’ to Jack seen in the books., he’s now a former station chief whose been consigned to a desk top after an operation went wrong.
While I liked Pierce’s portrayal and fans of buddy movies will enjoying seeing Ryan and Greer out in the field together, the new Greer does feel slightly smaller as a character than in either the first two films or novels.
Also making it from the books is Cathy, still a successful doctor but now Ryan’s girlfriend rather than his wife – a change that provides the writers with a chance to reveal Jack’s backstory as the pair date and get to know one another.
Otherwise the line-up seems to consist of entirely new characters and while I think the modern day setting and original plot end up working well, it would’ve been nice had the writers included more names from the established ‘Ryanverse’, especially those such as Arthur Moore and Dr. Jeffrey Pelt – respectively the CIA Director and National Security Advisor in Red October – roles which have on-screen counterparts or near counterparts in the series.
But these are small bones of discontent in comparison to my original scepticism and cynicism and instead of, as I expected to, switching off in disappointment, I’ve already binged the entire season and can’t wait to see what the producers have in store for us next year.