Tom Clancy’s Jack Ryan cast: John Krasinski, Wendell Pierce, Abbie Cornish, Ali Suliman
Tom Clancy’s Jack Ryan creators: Carlton Cuse, Graham Roland
Tom Clancy’s Jack Ryan rating: 4 stars
We finally have a spy who is not arrogant or slick and has almost no panache. Instead we have someone who is battling demons in his mind and scars on his mutilated back. His fingers tremble as he puts back the pin in a grenade, and he then crumbles into a heaving mass. John Krasinski, who plays the eponymous lead in Tom Clancy’s Jack Ryan, is a breath of fresh air. He breaks the cookie-cutter mold for spies in a delightful fashion, he rather play mind games with the bad guys over instant messenger than jump off a high-rise.
Jack Ryan, an eight-part series, which began streaming on Amazon Prime yesterday, is a show whose premise we are familiar with, thanks to Homeland and arcs in various police/law enforcement agency shows. The evil bad guy is Mousa Bin Suleiman, a fundamentalist who sports a beard, wears long flowing shirts and a chequered scarf and who wishes to avenge the wrongdoings meted out by the western world. The hero is CIA analyst, Ryan, a former Marine who cycles to work. The plot starts to unravel when Ryan spots huge money transfers over mobile phones to Syria and the chase to catch the elusive Suleiman, who is being touted as the next Bin Laden, begins. The story travels across France, Turkey, Syria and Washington DC, and touches upon the issues of refugees and rising incidences of polarisation and Islamophobia the world over.
The show takes a subtle dig at how America created its own enemies but predictably, it continues to paint it as the land of the free and the brave. In one of the scenes, a woman French intelligence officer explains to Ryan, “In America, you can still be an African and an American, you can be a Mexican-American, and an Italian-American, a Chinese-American. In France, there are no hyphenates. You are either French, or you are not”. Ryan listens with almost open jawed bewilderment.
Krasinski is the fifth actor to have reprised the role of Jack Ryan, which has been previously played by Alec Baldwin, Ben Affleck, Harrison Ford and Chris Pine. The Office star brings the same earnestness to his spy avatar, with which he baited his colleagues in the workplace sitcom. But he has enough bravado to bypass his superiors and take actions on his own. His relationship with his boss– Jim Greer (Wendell Pierce) in spectacular form–evolves with the show. And that’s perhaps why the series works. The show, unlike other spy offerings, think Mission Impossible and the Bourne Series, or Homeland on TV, is not linear in its story telling. Ryan is almost incidental to the story, not the ego-centre end of it all. In fact, his screen time is a tad less than the antagonist Suleiman. Enough time is spent building and discussing the backstory of Suleiman, who was orphaned in the bombing of the Bekaa valley in Lebanon and the writing and detailing by writers Carlton Cuse and Graham Roland is spot on. We might not have chest-thumping speeches, but we have one liners that stay. “Geography is destiny my friend. The world is the kiln and we are the clay,” elaborates a Turkish smuggler, who runs a mafia of smuggling refugees to Europe.
It’s not an edge-of-your-seat thriller, but it will keep you hooked to click on the next episode button, and with a second season already in the works, we know the antics of Jack Ryan are here to stay.