Tom Clancy

review jack ryan

Alec Baldwin. Harrison Ford. Ben Affleck. Playing Jack Ryan is almost as dangerous of a job as being Jack Ryan, and now 24 years after Tom Clancy‘s most famous character first hit the screen in The Hunt for Red October he’s back with a new face and a new reboot. This is not a good thing. Ryan (Chris Pine) is a college student when the Twin Towers fall in New York City, and the event leads him to join the U.S. Marines. An early mission in Afghanistan leaves him incapacitated and struggling to regain his physical faculties, but a mysterious C.I.A. agent named Harper (Kevin Costner) recruits him to help follow the money on Wall Street being used to line terrorist pockets. Ryan’s nose for numbers and patterns identifies a possible discrepancy with a Russian company headed up by Viktor Cherevin (Kenneth Branagh), and then all hell breaks loose. Unlike those earlier films, Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit is not based on an existing Clancy novel. The “original” story uses elements of the Ryan we already know but adds in additional elements to increase his heroism and speed up his journey into the C.I.A. These elements work well enough, but as the story and action unfold it quickly becomes clear that those novels featured something else sorely lacking here. Brains.



Back before Michael Bay directed his Transformers films, Transformers were just weird toys and cartoons that children of the 80s fondly remembered as being basically the best thing ever. People like fast cars, and people like giant robots, so why not create a bunch of fast cars who turn into giant robots and then fight each other? The idea is elegant, it’s simple, and as far as we knew, it was timeless. Then Bay and his crew went and turned the whole thing into modern, big budget movies and made us realize that Transformers was a thing best nostalgically remembered from childhood. Turns out the whole idea, complete with aliens, energon cubes, and plucky kid sidekicks, is kind of stupid, and lacks the elegant simplicity of cars turning into giant robots and then fighting each other. These days kids don’t play with toys anymore though, they play video games, so if Bay is going to continue making billions of dollars turning things that kids like into movies, a smart bet for him would probably be to adapt a popular video game into a movie. Enter Ubisoft’s ‘Ghost Recon’ series of games, which are popular shoot ‘em ups inspired by the work of Tom Clancy. There are no aliens in ‘Ghost Recon,’ no energon cubes, and no plucky kid sidekicks, so could this be Bay’s chance to redeem himself by adapting something young people like that’s actually cool, something that can be enjoyed by kids and adults alike?


Keira Knightley Cast in Jack Ryan

Despite some apparently rigorous auditioning, there has not been a tremendous flurry over which leading lady would be cast as Dr. Caroline “Cathy” Muller Ryan in Kenneth Branagh‘s Chris Pine-starring Jack Ryan. Perhaps the years we’ve spent waiting for the film have burned us out, or maybe everyone is just sick of “shortlists,” but word is now out on the final choice for the role, and it’s an interesting one. THR reports that Keira Knightley is in negotiations for the role of Mrs. Ryan for the film, which will serve as a prequel of sorts to Tom Clancy‘s book series about his popular CIA analyst character. The film will reportedly center “on ex-Marine and Moscow-based financial analyst Jack Ryan (Pine), who uncovers a plot by his employer to finance a terrorist attack designed to collapse the U.S. economy. Ryan must race against time to save America and his wife (Knightley).” The role of Cathy Ryan has been most notably played before by Anne Archer in Patriot Games and Clear and Present Danger, and she has also been portrayed by Bridget Moynahan in The Sum of All Fears and Gates McFadden (hey, Dr. Crusher!) in The Hunt for Red October.


Once upon a time the name Tom Clancy meant something to both the suits in Hollywood and the seats in theaters across America. The Hunt for Red October, an adaptation of Clancy’s first novel, was a commercial and critical hit, and it set the stage for three follow-up films featuring the author’s most famous character, Jack Ryan. The four movies averaged $200 million each at the worldwide box-office, but they stopped with 2002’s The Sum of All Fears (because there was a time when Ben Affleck’s name killed everything it touched). That same year saw the debut of Splinter Cell, a 3rd-person view stealth shooter that put players in the silent but deadly shoes of CIA operative Sam Fisher (voiced by Michael Ironside). Like Clancy’s Rainbow Six and Ghost Recon games this featured his name and advisement but no direct link to his fiction. The game series has been a big success, and talk of a movie adaptation has been evident throughout the past decade. Per Deadline Langley, studios are once again batting around the idea of a Splinter Cell adaptation. Publisher Ubisoft was in talks with WB in recent weeks, but it looks like Paramount may be the ones close to signing a deal. The studio is already in pre-production on a reboot of the Jack Ryan franchise starring Chris Pine’s forehead, so another collaboration seems likely.


The answer is yes. It’s funny how video games have gotten more and more cinematic, while video game adaptations have still been mostly awful. According to Cinema Blend, Ubisoft has sent out a survey to its loyal customers that asks them several questions about movies, including whether they’d like to see Rainbow Six and Assassin’s Creed. It even asks which characters they’d need to focus on. Big studio pictures are edited by focus groups, but here’s a situation where a big company is thinking about getting into the film business by getting a big focus group together at the front end. That’s not a terrible idea. Think of the movies that could have been avoided (and the money saved) if studios has just asked people whether they wanted them or not. Both of these titles would translate impeccably well to film. Rainbow Six would be an action film done in the Tom Clancy tradition, focusing on an elite counter-terrorism team. Assassin’s Creed might get a little too Prince of Persia‘d, but it has the appeal of an elite assassin team killing powerful bad guys in a rustic European setting. They are both high concept with some decently developed characters, and there’s no reason why they wouldn’t work on screen. Hopefully those survey-takers agree, and we’ll be able to see these projects move on to the next steps.


John Clark is the ultimate Tom Clancy badass. He’s what Jack Ryan is not. That goes for the films as well. Both Willem Dafoe and Liev Schreiber portrayed that wonderfully, but sadly, the spinoff many fans were always hoping for never got around to happening. Even sadder news, it most likely wont happen anytime soon. When I talked to Lorenzo di Bonaventura – who’s producing the reboot of the beloved character – there were two specific things I wanted to know: will this do-over be an origin story and will we see John Clark? The answer is “yes” for the origin story, but unfortunately “no” for John Clark. The reason why makes sense though. Being an origin story and all, it’s best to primarily focus on Ryan. Perhaps if this origin story relaunches the franchise successfully, we’ll see Clark in further installments. But as of right now, we’re going to have to wait a while to see that happen.



While reading this article, you may notice that Robert Ludlum titled all of his novels by staring with “The,” adding an enigmatic adjective like “Parsifal,” and ending it with a nonsensical noun like “mosaic.” You may also notice that Ron Howard will be directing a movie based off of “The Parsifal Mosaic.”


Jack Ryan

If this news had shown up about twelve days later I’d call it an April Fool’s joke.

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published: 12.19.2014
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