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'Tom Clancy's Jack Ryan' Brings John Krasinski Back to TV
August 31, 2018  | By David Hinckley

If John Krasinski thinks some TV fans still need a reason not to see him only as Jim Halpert of The Office, he’s taking a big swing with Tom Clancy’s Jack Ryan.

Krasinski is the fifth actor to play Clancy’s popular spy, stepping into the cloak of folks like Ben Affleck and, most famously, Harrison Ford.

That said, there’s nothing timid in the way Krasinski plunges into Tom Clancy’s Jack Ryan, whose first season debuts Friday on Amazon Prime.

Like Ford, Krasinski plays Jack as a little loose and a little apprehensive, two traits not ordinarily associated with CIA operatives. It’s not a bad choice, though, if only because it immediately separates him from another TV character who is well known from a remarkably similar mission.

In the course of doing his CIA job, Ryan finds information he strongly suspects may indicate a Middle Eastern terrorist is planning a major attack on American soil.

He takes this intel to his boss, James Greer (Wendell Pierce), who says that what he has is interesting and short of actionable. Jack makes an impassioned plea that if someone had this kind of red flag before 9/11, that tragedy might have been avoided.

And so begins a cat-and-mouse game that involves a high-stakes race against the clock and eventually takes Jack to the Middle East, the part where terrorists really do lurk almost everywhere. The cat and mouse roles sometimes get switched, and Jack sometimes ends up sparring more with his own side than the other.

Change a few names and details here and what do you have? Homeland, that’s what you have. Or you would have, except Jack isn’t Claire Danes’s Carrie Mathison.

Jack’s a brilliant guy who left Wall Street because he wanted to do more than just make money. That doesn’t mean he wanted to shoot it out with terrorists in Yemen. It meant working as a CIA analyst behind a nice safe desk in Langley, Va., and making plans for a future with his fiancé Cathy (Abbie Cornish), an accomplished doctor.

When circumstances alter those plans, he doesn’t relish suddenly becoming an action hero. He’s already done time in the military and while he did well, things ended badly. War stories have a way of doing that.  

Jack is smart enough to survive. What sets him apart is that even in the field he never stops being an analyst, connecting dots, looking for patterns and all the other things that data geeks enjoy.

Krasinski never turns Jack Ryan into the goofy guy whose victories are almost accidental. He’s trained. He knows what’s out there. He just isn’t a guy who lives for this stuff and he doesn’t win every battle.

Still, if you’re having an Everyman game and choosing up teams, he’s the guy you’d pick first. That’s why half of Hollywood has jumped at the chance to play him, and probably why Krasinski thought he’d be a good way to nudge Jim Halpert a few clicks into the background.

Tom Clancy’s Jack Ryan suffers slightly in comparison to the better Jack Ryan movies, mostly because this is a big story, with big scenes, and it just looks better on a big screen. ‘

But this adaptation doesn’t look cheap. It was shot all over the world, and it’s got the look to prove it. It’s a major-league production, and the fact Amazon has already ordered a second season reflects a justified confidence that Krasinski can convince us he’s the guy we want standing between us and Sulieman (Ali Suliman), the terrorist who is determined to hurt America.

Sulieman, it might be noted, gets a substantial backstory of his own, as do several of the people around him. That includes his wife Hana (Dina Shihabi), which marks a gratifying change in the way Muslim women are often portrayed in terrorist tales.

While Sulieman doesn’t exactly become sympathetic, we see some of the reasons he has made his decisions. Much as we like Jack Ryan, this isn’t a world of pure good vs. pure evil – and that in itself isn’t a bad reason to sit down for another round with Jack Ryan.  

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