In the 1990’s, Tom Clancy’s Jack Ryan character was the American answer to James Bond. Alec Baldwin originated him in The Hunt for the Red October—AKA your dad’s favorite movie—but it was Harrison Ford’s portrayal in Patriot Games and Clear and Present Danger that helped the character really take off. Then there was a lull in the late 90s, then terrorism became part of our daily lives, and then Ben Affleck tried to bring the character back. It didn’t work. After more than a decade on the ice, Chris Pine tried to revive Jack Ryan once again. It also didn’t work. Now, John Krasinski is trying to be 21st Century Jack Ryan, but this time on TV. Are you more likely to watch because it’s Jim from The Office combined with the convenience of streaming?
War and terrorism stories have not fared well in the last couple years. Krasinski’s own 13 Hours, despite being Michael Bay’s most tolerable movie, didn’t do well. Mark Wahlberg’s Boston Marathon bombing movie also didn’t do well. Jake Gyllenhaal’s Boston Marathon bombing movie isn’t doing great, despite being more about recovery and hope than violence and tragedy. There was a time when we ate up war and terrorism stories, when Jack Bauer was our #1 TV hero and Peter Berg could make a tragedy into a box office hit, but a switch has flipped in the last couple years.
So can John Krasinski un-flip it? His show, titled simply Jack Ryan, will stream on Amazon Prime, and they’ve just released the first teaser. Are you into it? I’m not really feeling it. I’m a big fan of Krasinski as an actor, and I do like how he plays his interrogation moment as sympathetic and understanding, but I physically flinched when those guys were tasered—cattle-prodded?—in the town street. Do we really need this right now? Is now the right time to stoke prejudice and fear, when the actual news is doing the most to ensure we stay frightened and angry? I’m just not interested in this unless Jack Ryan has a trick up its sleeve about perspective and self-reflection. Maybe if the thematic gaze of the series is turned inward, MAYBE there might be something there. But if this is just 24-style American Hero saves us from Brown Threat, count me out. I’ll keep waiting for Krasinski to make that show about Chateau Marmont.