1 9 From Harrison Ford to Alec Baldwin to Ben Affleck to Chris Pine,… Who’s the best Jack Ryan?
For the release on Amazon Prime of Bonanza without remorse on the 30th. April, we look at the five films that led up to this one and how Jack Ryan created the scene for John Clark. We’ve read about these two characters and watched them go on wild adventures for nearly 40 years while escaping nuclear annihilation and targeted assassinations.
What began as a best-selling series has grown into a film franchise that has grossed over $700 million at the box office. The TV series Jack Ryan is building on this momentum as it prepares for its third season. Tom Clancy’s film adaptations, both on the big and small screen, have always offered audiences a compelling mix of realistic action and contemporary political thriller stories.
Before we get to Without Remorse, let’s take a look at Jack Ryan’s 24 years and then see where the film series goes.
The Hunt for Red October (1990)
Alec Baldwin’s solo performance as Jack Ryan launched the franchise in the final days of the Cold War. A veteran captain of a Soviet submarine (Sean Connery) escapes, and CIA analyst Jack Ryan is forced to reveal his motives before rival fleets rush to the Atlantic bow. The film even created a memory. Do you remember? Fred Thompson storms the bridge screaming: It’s getting out of hand. It’s going to get out of hand, and we’ll be lucky if we survive.
The quintessential Cold War film offers strong underdog portraits that could outshine even Tim Curry and Gates McFadden (Star Trek’s Dr. Crusher). While not as action-packed as the later films, it’s a straightforward cat-and-mouse thriller with a touch of warfare and the occasional shootout aboard a nuclear submarine. With John McTiernan (Die Hard, Predator) at the helm, it’s no surprise that Red October is a blockbuster thrill ride.
Overall rating: #2 out of 5
Rating of the action: 3 out of 5
The hunt for Red October: A look back at this action thriller.
Patriotic Games (1992)
Harrison Ford once again plays the role of Jack Ryan, who is now semi-retired. After the collapse of the Soviet Union, it was time to focus on other threats to national security. The Irish Republican Army, led by mild-mannered Paddy O’Neill (Richard Harris) but filled with violent paramilitary sociopaths like Sean Miller (Sean Bean), crosses paths with Jack Ryan in Britain with fantastically explosive results. Ryan has ruined their murderous mission, so now it’s time for revenge and, as you may have guessed, this time it’s personal.
Patriot games dramatically increase the action through terrorist attacks, targeted assassinations, car and boat chases, and hostage situations. Again, the incredible cast and the thriller aspect of the story set this fantastic action film apart from other blockbusters of the era. Although the film contains many of the same stylistic elements as Bond or the 1990s film Rock, Patriot Games motivated a generation of filmmakers to develop more realistic images of terrorism and black bag operations. This trend can be seen in movies like Mission: Impossible Series: Jackal, Spy Game and Enemy of the State.
Overall score : 3 out of 5
Action Rating : #1 out of 5
A reassuringly unpretentious and definitive legacy of Patriot Games (1992).
Pure and Present Hazard (1994)
Harrison Ford returns to the businessman’s scene and once again plays Jack Ryan, a seasoned intelligence specialist with an office job. Of course, we all know that the office is only temporary in Jack’s life. The war on drugs is in full swing, and the U.S. military is secretly deployed south of the border to exact revenge on the cartels. Ryan’s third film seamlessly blends politics, action and intrigue in a compelling story of shifting alliances and enemies.
We first meet John Clarke in this short story with Willem Dafoe, which is sort of an introduction to the character. He’s an idiot who doesn’t know what’s going on to take command and lead a mission that isn’t on the schedule. Clark conspires with Ryan to take out the giant Charlie Foxtrot in the jungle. Clark is portrayed as a seasoned special operations veteran. Clark and his team deliver the action. Ryan handles the logistics and juggles a Skullduggler, which fits his character better than the more modern reboots.
Overall score : 1 out of 5
Evaluation of the action: 2 out of 5
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Sum of all fears (2002)
After an eight-year hiatus, the studio has dusted off the Jack Ryan property and rebooted the original story with Ben Affleck in the analyst’s chair. The Sum of All Fears, heavily adapted from the source material, is about the secret Nazis who developed the Spectrum Escape system and are leading Russia and the United States into nuclear Armageddon. The attack on the aircraft carrier and the bombing in Baltimore raise the stakes to the limit. It’s up to Jack Ryan to defuse the tension and expose the Fourth Reich conspiracy before things really get out of hand and no one survives.
Liev Schreiber puts on John Clark’s combat boots to help Ryan find the missing Russian scientists. A little more sympathetic than Dafoe’s version, Schreiber’s Clark is still a cool customer who gets the job done. Affleck’s Ryan is always in the spotlight, and he, not Clark, is the main thrust of the story.
The sum total of all fears is mixed. The thriller’s storyline holds up, but the Nazi’s secretive side seems cartoonish. For reasons of political correctness or the personal taste of the filmmakers, the Arab nationalists in the book have been replaced by neo-fascists. Since I’m not a fan of murderous terrorists or Nazi clowns in disguise, I can watch how both sides eventually get Corleone, but Clancy’s plot makes much more sense. And for some reason, the movers were bothered that an American city was destroyed a year after 9/11. As a standalone film, The Sum of All Fears is a creditable political thriller, but it can’t match the Jack Ryan franchise.
Overall score : 4 out of 5
Action score: 4 out of 5
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Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruitment (2014)
The unwanted only child of the Jack Ryan films, which apparently I saw at the time and completely forgot about. Seeing the movie again and discovering that I had seen this movie before was the most exciting part of my viewing experience.
One might wonder why we need a third Jack Ryan origin story, but at least this version is more faithful to Clancy’s character. After 9/11, Chris Pines joins Ryan and prepares for his first deployment to Afghanistan, but his helicopter is shot down on the way. Suffering from a debilitating spinal cord injury, he is comforted by an increasingly irritating woman, Cathy Mueller, played by Keira Knightley, who tries to put on an American accent. The CIA, played exclusively by Kevin Costner, recruits Ryan from a lucrative and well-paying job at a brokerage firm.
The dastardly Russians are at it again, but instead of a nuclear war, the financial sector is being weaponized and a corrupt oligarch is threatening to crush the American economy. The mismatched trio must find a way to disrupt the stock market frenzy and prevent a terrorist attack that will cause a financial meltdown.
What a waste. The story lacks cohesion and the characters aren’t fleshed out that much and/or make terrible choices, like Katie volunteering for an undercover operation to steal the oligarch’s infamous data. This second attempt at a reboot failed, leaving little motivation to continue the series, at least with this unfortunate cast of characters.
Overall score : 5 out of 5
Action score: 5 out of 5
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Pass the torch?
Jack Ryan may be taking a break and stretching his back for a while as John Clark prepares to hit theaters in April. There are many more stories in the Ryan story, and they require strong characters to navigate the murky world of national security politics.
The casting of Michael B. Jordan as John Clark, and the intense previews, seem to be going in the right direction. Feel free to look to the future, because John Clark’s past is very different from Jack Ryan’s. While Jack is hanging out with his classmates and discussing Keynesian economics, Navy SEAL John is in the jungle hunting down the Viet Cong. John Clark’s story is one of tragedy and betrayal, making him a hardened spirit willing to do the dirty work for dark interests.
Jordan has also signed up for the next No Remorse event, Rainbow Six. John Clark and his team of special ops superstars have banded together to form a group of environmental freaks to advocate their brutal carbon neutrality. So the stars are now aligned in the Ryan series to create exceptional, action-packed content in the coming years. Stay tuned for our review of No Remorse to see how things stand in the franchise and if the action lives up to the awesome trailer.
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