Wednesday, September 5, 2018

Amazon/Paramount's TOM CLANCY'S JACK RYAN series proves the best of the bunch

I thought I'd never want to see another iteration of Jack Ryan -- that Tom Clancy character who has already "graced" (I use the word very loosely) a plethora of middling films, from The Hunt for Red October through Patriot GamesClear and Present Danger, The Sum of All Fears (better than middling) and Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit.

And then comes along an entire cable TV series featuring this character back in action and -- what-do-you-know? -- it is, by a long shot, the best of the lot.
TOM CLANCY'S JACK RYAN, now streaming via Amazon Prime, is a remarkably smart, beautifully-paced eight-episode series that will take you a little over six hours to finish. It is more than worth the time spent. Although the subject is (as usual with Clancy) espionage, war and terrorism (this time Islamic style), what we get here, thanks to showrunners Carlton Cuse and Graham Roland, is a much more nuanced look at Islam, terrorism and its participants -- both the willing and the unwilling -- as well as an extremely exciting, suspenseful and well-written, -directed, acted- and (especially) -plotted tale.

One of the many important things that distinguishes this Jack Ryan offering is the way in which it allows us to see and begin to feel from the perspective of all the participants -- the various governments, police, terrorists and their families -- in short, all the actors on both sides of events. When a particular family (or part of it) is finally rescued from within a huge array of refugees about to take their chance on "boating" across the Mediterranean to possible safety or death, it lingers long and hard on all those refugees left behind, forcing us to at least consider their fate, before moving on to more "adventure."

It also observes important differences between the terrorists and how they treat humanity at large and in particular. While the series comes down, of course, on the side of America and against the terrorists, it does not shy away from letting us see how and why these terrorists evolved. Series star John Krasinski (shown at top and above, left) also makes the best Jack Ryan yet, using his goofy face and sexy body to charm us, even as he helps turn his character into something as finely nuanced as is the series itself.

Wendell Pierce (above) provides his usual sterling support as Ryan's new boss; Abbie Cornish (below) is fine as his maybe girlfriend; Ali Suliman (bottom, right) makes a worthy and sometimes extremely frightening and real villain; and Dina Shihabi (bottom, left) is alternately delicate and iron-spined as the wife who must makes a sudden and permanent life choice.

Best of all is how speedy and smart are the many fine action scenes. The directors, who include Patricia Riggen and Daniel Sackheim, and the writers (six of them) don't waste our time but instead cut to what's important, over and over again. There is barely any scene here that is overlong. The series left me extremely satisfied and ready for more. Which we'll get eventually via Season Two.

Tom Clancy's Jack Ryan streams now via Amazon Video, where it is free to Prime members.

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