Amazons adaptation of Tom Clancys novels amounts to a bewildered boy scout looking at a machine gun
If you thought that the world had had its fill of fictional spies blundering through Middle Eastern hotspots picking off identikit terrorists while cities burn, think again, chumps, because Jack Ryan, the dreamboat creation of the late Tom Clancy, is back in how about this for a title? Jack Ryan (Amazon Prime Video, from Friday). Where Ethan Hunt gets the job done by dangling by his fingernails from a helicopter, and Jason Bourne does it by shooting everyone and then having an existential crisis, Ryans default setting is bewildered boy scout looking sadly at a machine gun. Hes a man who drags his conscience around with him like a dead leg, but could take out an entire Isis cell one-handed while pondering non-Euclidean geometry if he put his mind to it.
Here Ryan is played by John Krasinski, whose face looks like a CGI meld of Mad Mens John Hamm and Prince Eric from The Little Mermaid. By far his greatest talent is his eyebrows, which were brilliantly cast in the largely wordless horror The Quiet Place, and which certainly do a lot of heavy lifting here. Rumour has it that Krasinskis eyebrows have their own limo. When he fancies a day on the sofa, he simply packs them a sandwich and sends them to work without him.
But back to Ryan, an analyst whom we meet in his fourth year at the CIA where he works in the terror finance and arms division following suspicious money trails. Ryan, a former marine who fought in Afghanistan, is a textbook sufferer of Dark Past Syndrome. We know this because, along with the mysterious scars on his back, he has trouble sleeping, although that may be related to his habit of lying next to a ticking metronome. Ryan also has a new boss, Greer (Wendell Pierce, AKA Bunk from The Wire), with whom he gets off on the wrong foot but will ultimately bond with because he too is a sufferer of Dark Past Syndrome, related to his sudden demotion from case officer to belligerent Langley pencil-pusher. The two initially clash over Ryans discovery of a multi-million dollar transaction traceable to an Islamist activist named Suleiman (Ali Suliman), though events soon overtake them, and before you can say Couldnt Carrie Mathison deal with this? they are up to their armpits in a terrorist conspiracy.
Full of deftly choreographed shootouts and comically macho stand-offs, Jack Ryan is diverting claptrap just as long as you disengage your brain. Its a place where exposition rains down like mortar fire and fleeting exchanges (Ryan: Im an analyst, I dont interrogate people; Greer: Just get on the fucking plane) grout the cracks made by major plot swerves.
Despite being set in the present day, and not the 1950s, it is also a televisual universe in which the primary function of women is to gasp at the brilliance and/or handsomeness of the male lead, or, if theyre lucky, bring in a tray of tea. But no matter, because this is Jack Ryan, a man of such intrinsic goodness and sensitivity that even international terrorists melt slightly in his presence. Krasinskis Jack Ryan is a 21st-century espionage hero much like the 20th-century ones, but with added eyebrow. Really, who could ask for more?