Do you know Jack?

Rank­ing all the ac­tors who played CIA op­er­a­tive Jack Ryan

The Niagara Falls Review - - Arts & Life - BILL KEVENEY USA To­day

As he takes on the iconic role of re­luc­tant hero Jack Ryan, John Krasin­ski (”The Of­fice,” “A Quiet Place”) isn’t just try­ing to fill big shoes. He’s try­ing to fill a lot of shoes.

Four other ac­tors — Har­ri­son Ford, Alec Bald­win, Ben Af­fleck and Chris Pine — have played the bril­liant an­a­lyst-turned-field op­er­a­tive who jumped from the pages of Tom Clancy’s best­selling mil­i­tary/in­tel­li­gence thrillers to box-of­fice suc­cess and a five-film fran­chise.

Krasin­ski brings the char­ac­ter to TV in Ama­zon’s eight-episode “Tom Clancy’s Jack Ryan” (Fri­day), which is al­ready film­ing its sec­ond sea­son.

Set in the present day, the series tells an en­tirely new story, and isn’t based on any of Clancy’s nov­els.

None of the Ryan por­tray­als are bad, but the best ben­e­fit from stronger scripts and a nu­anced por­trayal of Clancy’s char­ac­ter, a mil­i­tary vet­eran and re­luc­tant hero. Let’s rank Ryans (from last to first):

5. Chris Pine

In “Jack Ryan: Shadow Re­cruit” (2014), Pine, 33 at the time, shows Ryan’s nerdy, data-anal­y­sis side, suss­ing out a Rus­sian fi­nan­cial scheme de­signed to crash the U.S. econ­omy.

How­ever, Pine’s solid, earnest doc­u­ment sleuth takes too quickly to field work, demon­strat­ing a skill set that would qual­ify Ryan for Tom Cruise’s “Mis­sion: Im­pos­si­ble” team but doesn’t work as well for an an­a­lyst more com­fort­able do­ing re­search. The por­trayal yields a po­tent Ryan but comes at a price: the loss of the fish-out-of-wa­ter charm that is cen­tral to Jack’s ap­peal.

4. Ben Af­fleck

“The Sum of All Fears” (2002) veers sharply from Clancy’s 1991 novel, pre­sent­ing a younger, not-yet-field-tested char­ac­ter rather than the deputy direc­tor of the CIA.

Af­fleck, then 29, and Pine have the mis­for­tune of star­ring in weaker films. But the higher stakes in “Sum” — po­ten­tial nu­clear war be­tween the U.S. and Rus­sia — and Ryan’s naivete and awk­ward­ness in Af­fleck’s film, edge out Pine.

3. John Krasin­ski

The reimag­i­na­tion of the fran­chise in “Tom Clancy’s Jack Ryan” takes the char­ac­ter back to the early days of his CIA ca­reer and his in­tro­duc­tion to fu­ture wife Cathy (Ab­bie Cor­nish).

Krasin­ski’s Ryan is a desk jockey whose tal­ent for crunch­ing num­bers leads him to a po­ten­tial ter­ror­ist threat, sar­cas­ti­cally dubbed “a brand new bin Laden” by his skep­ti­cal new boss (Wen­dell Pierce). But it looks like Jack may be right.

The TV Ryan ranks third based on cir­cum­stance and po­ten­tial. “Of­fice” mem­o­ries of prac­ti­cal joker Jim Halpert work for 38year-old Krasin­ski, sup­port­ing the con­cept of Ryan as an un­likely ac­tion hero, es­pe­cially in com­par­i­son to the more tra­di­tional lead­ing men of the movies. The episodic for­mat gives “Jack Ryan” the chance to take its time de­vel­op­ing the char­ac­ter from novice to pro.

2. Har­ri­son Ford

The “Star Wars” leg­end, the only ac­tor cred­ited with mul­ti­ple Ryan films, earns this spot based on the sec­ond of his two out­ings, 1994’s “Clear and Present Dan­ger.”

In this ver­sion — Ford was 52 when “Dan­ger” pre­mièred — an older, wiser Ryan is ap­pointed head of CIA in­tel­li­gence op­er­a­tions, and fights a two-pronged bat­tle. As he seeks Con­gres­sional fund­ing to take on vi­o­lent Colom­bian drug car­tels, he learns a se­cret West Wing ca­bal and a car­tel dou­ble agent are schem­ing to kill the car­tel’s lead­ers and ex­ter­mi­nate a U.S. black-ops team to elim­i­nate any ev­i­dence.

The in­ter­nal skul­dug­gery tests Ryan’s an­a­lyt­i­cal skill and field readi­ness, mak­ing the film a big­ger chal­lenge for the char­ac­ter and a bet­ter show­case for Ford than the less-com­plex, Irafo­cused “Pa­triot Games” in 1992.

In both movies, the ac­tor’s sig­na­ture world-weari­ness be­came the source of the mid­dleaged hero’s re­luc­tance, whereas in­ex­pe­ri­ence and un­cer­tainty mo­ti­vated the younger Ryans.

1. Alec Bald­win

As is of­ten the case, the first por­trayal was the best. In 1990s “The Hunt for Red Oc­to­ber,” set in the Cold War ’80s, Ryan is a book-smart, field-averse CIA an­a­lyst who re­jects con­ven­tional wisdom by the­o­riz­ing that a rogue Soviet sub­ma­rine cap­tain (Sean Con­nery) isn’t bent on at­tack­ing the U.S., but in­stead seeks to de­fect and hand over his state-of-the-art tech­nol­ogy.

A youth­ful Bald­win, then 31, deftly con­veyed Ryan’s cre­ative in­tel­lect and wet-be­hind-the-ears cal­low­ness. It was a com­bustible mix that drew the CIA an­a­lyst into prob­lems only he could de­tect, while rais­ing ques­tions for view­ers (and him­self ) about whether he was ca­pa­ble of solv­ing them. Any­one fa­mil­iar with Jack Ryan knows the answer.

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