Jack Ryan Amazon

Clear and Present Danger of Losing Interest 

But the show works so much better when it puts the action on the back-burner and tries to tell more grounded, human stories. Ryan’s first real date with Cathy, in which the two casually flirt at a seafood joint, and Ryan eventually talks about his dead father, is 10 times more interesting than any chase scene or explosion-heavy moment.

That’s not to say the action is bad. Indeed, some of it is genuinely thrilling. One particular highlight is a stand-off scene on a beach, where hundreds of refugees are lined-up to make a trip to Europe. Ryan and Greer find themselves in a shoot-out – where they are obviously the victors. It’s tense and exciting, but more than that, it’s fascinating in its realism. After the big action beat, the camera slowly pans out, revealing that the crowded beach has mostly remained oblivious to this action beat. The scene seems to be underlining the truth of the matter: the world is vast, and the actions of Jack Ryan and company, no matter how thrilling, are minuscule in the grand scheme of things.

As for Krasinski, he’s fine. He isn’t the bearded, muscled-up tough-guy from Michael Bay’s 13 Hours, nor is he the quiet, guarded father from A Quiet Place. Here, he’s more in Jim Haplert mode, minus the smugness. We almost expect him to turn and shoot one of those knowing-glances to the camera while interviewing a suspect. His boyish disposition works well to contrast the moments in which he has to draw a gun and get into a shooting match. Still, when Jack Ryan is the least interesting part of Jack Ryan, something is wrong.

The writing, from Cuse, Roland and others, is smarter than one might expect. No one would ever accuse Tom Clancy of being progressive, and there’s definitely a conservative fantasy element to the story unfolding here. Still, the scripts make attempts to make the characters – all of them, no matter which side they fall on – seem relatable and believable. There are no sneering villains out of a Rambo movie here. Just people, some good, some bad, all of them somewhat morally gray. “You don’t like me,” a Turkish sex trafficker tells Ryan at one point. “You think you’re the good guy and I’m the bad. Maybe you’re right. But maybe if I was born in a nice American city, I could be the good guy too.”

As good as the writing may be, it can’t save the shockingly drab direction. This is a very poorly blocked show. There’s no innovation here; no life. No cinematic expression. Instead, there’s a very monotonous pattern. We get an establishing shot of some location – be it a scorching desert, snow covered alps, or a nondescript government office building. Then there will be a cut to a medium close-up of whomever is occupying the scene. The angle will almost never change, instead trapping us in this uninspired medium close-up angle. It’s boxy and claustrophobic, and worst of all, boring. Occasionally – during action scenes, mostly – we’ll get a wider shot. But too much of this show is shot like an old episode of Law & Order, which frankly doesn’t fly anymore.

Amazon has already given the go-ahead for Jack Ryan season 2, so the series will stick around. Whether or not audiences find themselves turning to it is a question that’s still up in the air. There’s been enough promotion, and Krasinski is a big enough star, to at least net a strong start. But as the season unfolds, and the episodes grow less and less enticing, interest might wain. And producers might have to abandon Jack Ryan once again.

But don’t worry, he’ll be back. He always comes back. 

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Jack Ryan debuts on Amazon August 31, 2018.

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