The life and times of Jack Ryan
Jack Ryan has been portrayed under different lights by different actors, but he continues to be the devoted agent in every adaptation.
When talking about John Krasinski's portrayal of Jack Ryan, showrunner Graham Roland said, "Jack Ryan’s superpower is his doggedness, his determination and, more than anything, his brain. I think that John has that." The chiseled faced CIA analyst who is often criticized by his seniors for his mellow way with things has been portrayed by some of the best known Hollywood actors like Alec Baldwin, Harrison Ford, Ben Affleck, and Chris Pine. Now 'The Office' star John Krasinski is taking Tom Clancy's James Bond of America to a whole new level.
But before that, who is Jack Ryan? No, he is not a historical character. Jack Ryan is Tom Clancy's fictional character of the Ryanverse who has appeared in most of his works. Born to a World War II veteran and a nurse, Ryan was set to become the strength of his unit in the infantry after becoming the Second Lieutenant in the United States Marine Corps. However, his military career was disrupted when at 23 he was badly injured after a plane crash during a NATO exercise over the Greek island of Crete. Being almost addicted to pain medication, the accident resulted in a lengthy process of recovery which compelled him to leave the Marine Corps.
As stated by Admiral Joshua Painter in the movie adaptation of 'The Hunt for Red October' (where Alec Baldwin plays the title character) during the summer of his third year at the United States Naval Academy, "he went down in a chopper accident. Bad. Pilot and crew killed. That kid spent 10 months in traction and another year learning to walk again. He did his fourth year from the hospital." Although films are always inconsistent with the storyline of a novel, the portrayal of Jack Ryan has always remained intact- the smart, kind-hearted, jovial man who considers every possibility while solving a case.
In spite of his own accident and his parents' death in a similar crash, Ryan has always been a character who hasn't let past mishaps hamper his work. Although he did develop a fear for flights, Ryan made his way to become an outside consultant for the CIA under the recommendation of Father Tim O'Riley, Ph.D., S.J., (a Georgetown University professor) to a CIA. While working as an outside consultant and being employed by MITRE Corporation, Ryan wrote a paper entitled 'Agents and Agencies'. In the paper which he wrote while staying in Langley, Virginia, he mentioned that state-sponsored terrorism is an act of war.
During this period he also invented the canary trap which helps find out how and under what circumstances can an information be leaked. The method required giving out separate versions of a sensitive document to separate groups, with the words slightly altered in each document, and keeping a track of which document gets leaked first. His analytical skills found prominence in the Alec Baldwin starring 'The Hunt for Red October' where the CIA agent is bashed at by his senior who claims, "You are just an analyst. How can you possibly know what's going on in his mind?" However, those who have watched the movie will recall that it was Ryan who revealed the fact that Marko Ramius (played by Sean Connery), the captain of Red October, was only trying to defect.
Although Ryan was offered a permanent position in the CIA, he turned it down and began teaching at the Naval Academy. It was around this time when he took a trip for research in London with his wife and daughter and witnessed the attack on the Prince of Wales. Unlike the book which mentions the attack to be on the Prince of Wales, the 1992 thriller starring Harrison Ford saw Ryan intervening in the attacks on Lord William Holmes, Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, and killing one of the terrorists Patrick Miller. Ryan was in a way compelled to rejoin the CIA as an analyst after his family faced severe threats by Sean Miller, Patrick Miller's companion.
While Harrison Ford portrayed Ryan under a situation of both national and personal crisis, Affleck in the 2002 movie adaptation of Clancy's 'The Sum of All Fears' portrayed Ryan as the man on whose advise the USA executed the plan to convert Jerusalem into a Vatican-like independent state that is to be administered by the Jewish, Muslim and Christian religious leaders. Ryan's decision came at a time when the Israeli Defense Force was preparing to conduct a tactical nuclear strike, and his idea seemed to be the perfect resort since the Middle East found it easier to negotiate their disputes under the suggested situation.
Although now the diplomatic sensitivity of Jerusalem has received a massive blow, thanks to Trump's brilliant idea of converting the holy city into the capital of Israel, it only defines the fineness of Clancy's sense of characterization which places Ryan in the middle of every sensitive socio-political scenario. Considering his accomplishments, his methods, and his passion for what he does, Ryan can easily be termed a superhero (metaphorically). As much as he is an everyman character who isn't the hardcore, stern CIA figure that is usually projected in films, Krasinski said to the Hollywood Reporter, "It’s very inspiring in the world of superheroes and capes and flying and shooting things out of your hands. It’s nice to focus on real people and real heroes.”
Krasinski who is set to take the role in Amazon's upcoming series on the character was pretty much smitten by Ryan in 'The Hunt for Red October' back in 1989 when he was just 10-year-old. Admiring Clancy's signature character, Krasinski admits that a story like Jack Ryan isn't probably a very good idea for a movie adaptation. As he told Variety, "It was really the pitch of a long-form television version. Maybe movies weren’t the best medium for Jack Ryan, really, with the books being so long and rich and detailed with tradecraft that with long-form television you could really investigate the character in a real way, similar to the books.”
While Ryan's story stretches from one foreign policy to the other, the character could not have come to a full circle without being the one to issue a foreign doctrine which states that the United States will no longer tolerate attacks on "our territory, our possessions, or our citizens". His character found a central role in the American political scenario, and his foreign policy came during the time of the Ebola attack on the United States under the command of the dictator of the new United Islamic Republic, Mahmoud Haji Daryaei. This is probably the most significant instance that highlights Ryan's ethical sense of democracy. He was never somebody who was in for an all-out war, he wanted to look into the depths of a matter before taking things in his own hands.
As Roland points out, most of the movies from Baldwin's to Affleck's saw Ryan as a one-dimensional devoted agent who takes his work religiously. However, the TV series starring Krasinski will probably see Ryan under a different light. "The movies kind of focused on Jack Ryan in that this guy’s good, this guy’s bad and that’s it. We get to be a little more sophisticated and a little bit more real." Unlike the movies which already see Ryan as a ground-breaking, pistol-toting CIA agent, the TV series is set to introduce Ryan as a former Marine working a mid-level job as a CIA analyst. It will focus on the Ryan who is just four years into the career and rides a bicycle to work.
It will be quite interesting to see Krasinski trace the character to its roots and gradually develop him into the subtle-genius who was portrayed in the movie franchise. As the series has already received a green signal from Amazon for a second season, the first season is set to release on August 31.
Watch the trailer below: