- Release Date: August 31, 2018
- Cast: John Krasinski, Abbie Cornish, Wendell Pierce, Ali Suliman, Dina Shihabi, Amir El-Masry
- Created by: Carlton Cuse and Graham Roland
Jack Ryan chronicles the journey of a CIA Analyst Jack Ryan (John Krasinski) who through his work on financial dealings in Yemen marks a high priority target who ends up being as dangerous as Osama Bin Laden. As he runs the point for the CIA with assistance from his T-Fad station Chief Greer (Wendell Pierce), he is continuously forced into on-field assignments where his safety and his personal life are continually put in harm’s way. As he digs deeper and deeper into the dreaded terrorist that he has been following through his financial transactions, he realizes that he has met his match in a man who is as dangerous as he is motivated. The rest of the series is about the cat and mouse game between the two giving us a glimpse every now and then into the psyche of both men.
I loved Jack Ryan. I cannot deny the fact that I have a love for films and series of this type and Jack Ryan was right up my alley but had it not been so well done it wouldn’t have had the kind of impact that it did on me. This is also a series that proves that you do not need to have a whole lot of action in a teleplay about terrorism. If you have laced your story with enough drama and good performances then you have actually neutralized the need for big booming blasts, incessant gun battles and heroics hand to hand combats. Jack Ryan has a healthy serving of all of that mentioned above but it doesn’t use them as a prop or means to draw attention. Instead, it is all a part of the larger game and feels necessary and real.
This is a series that is gripping from start to finish. There are a few elements here and there that feel a little out of place but that’s about it. Most of the story and the screenplay is absorbing. It has always been my demand to make characters real and approachable through conflicts. Here we have both the protagonist and the antagonist inspired and pushed forward by nothing but their internal conflicts and the world that they have grown up in. This adds a real gusto to the series.
For a series like this to work out, it must be densely packed with material, twists, drama, and surprises. Jack Ryan ends every episode on a cliffhanger and even though it does use a few tropes of its genre, it never gets predictable or boring. The fact that it is hard to hate the bad guy completely even after he does some terrible things, makes it that much more entertaining. Every episode has its own bit of the story to tell which is obviously part of the whole but it does have the merit to stand up as its own tale too.
Being a performance-driven drama, John Krasinski brings his A-Game to the table. He is not only believable but also extremely effective as Jack Ryan who wants to track down the dreaded terrorist Suleiman as much as he wants to save Suleiman’s son from ending up just like his father. A large portion of the first episode is spent in him trying to make the others in his department believe that Suleiman is real. This portion is incidentally the most ironic in the whole series as at many junctures even we the viewers doubt whether Suleiman is real or not. I also loved the romantic angle that Ryan shares with Cathy (Abbie Cornish).
Cathy is a doctor with major in infection control and the daughter of Ryan’s previous boss. She is intrigued by Ryan but is also apprehensive about him since he constantly keeps hiding things and lying to her. This results in some interesting friction between the two which comes off as a welcome break from the usual scheme of things. Cornish is beautiful and graceful and a perfect match for the role that she is playing. She shares a beautiful chemistry with Krasinski which is instantly likable.
Wendell Pierce plays the cliché boss who starts off hating Ryan but eventually warms up to him and the two make a wonderful team that successfully tracks down Suleiman. Nothing would have saved the character had it not been for Pierce’s wonderful act. He is so likable and captivating in the role that you cannot help but fall in love with his character.
Ali Suliman as the primary antagonist Suleiman acts like a boss. He outshines Krasinski at many junctures and that is because of the manner in which his character is written and how he enacts it. There are many shades to Suleiman and as the series proceeds, we discover newer facets of his character. He starts off as not a terrible bad guy but by the time the series ends, he becomes a searing threat to the humanity. We hate him the most because of what he does to his wife Hanin (Dina Shihabi). He will remain a memorable villain.
Having said all that, I still had some issue with the series. The first of it was that it does stretch the believability factor to a great extent. The plans that Suleiman makes has a great lot to do with luck and eventuality and some of it doesn’t make complete sense. For a man who is referred to as calculated and highly intelligent terrorist, it just feels off. As I mentioned before the series does fall prey to many tropes of the genre and at many junctures it feels repetitive. Some characters are a clichéd version of many characters that we have seen before albeit in different series. If that’s not all, I also have to give in to the fact it does end a bit meekly. The makers may ascertain that to the realistic nature of the content but with the amount of liberty that they took throughout the series, they could have easily gone for a more dramatic climax.
Jack Ryan is still a very worthy binge watch. I watched it at one go and after that a second time too and felt just as intrigued by it as I did the first time around. It will be instantly lapped up by people like me who have an inclination towards content of this type. Jack Ryan is well acted, thrilling, captivating and above all it is relevant in current times. This is a must watch.
Rating : 4/5 (4 out of 5 Stars)