Jack Ryan is a continuing spy film tradition, thanks to the reboot Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit that is now in theaters. The late author Tom Clancy wrote roughly 15 novels featuring the intrepid CIA analyst, and the novel series features the evolution of Jack Ryan from student, through his life at the CIA, all the way to the nation’s highest office. With Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit, there are now five Jack Ryan films, and the character has undergone no less of an evolution.
The film saga of Jack Ryan began with 1990’s Hunt for Red October, with Alec Baldwin tackling the role of the intrepid CIA analyst. Baldwin’s Ryan was sharp, serious, yet somehow capable of taking on the challenges of stopping a potential nuclear attack at the hands of villain Sean Connery. There was no doubt in anyone’s mind that Baldwin’s Ryan was more than able to handle anything that was thrown at him. Coolly confident, and still strong in his convictions, the audience believed Baldwin in the role of hardworking CIA analyst Ryan.
Harrison Ford, who initially turned down the part of Jack Ryan in Hunt for Red October, joined 1992’s Patriot Games. He’d agreed to read the script and promptly flew out to talk about the part with producer Mace Neufeld. Ford brought a paternal feel to the role of the character; Ryan had, of course, just become a family man, and as a somewhat harried analyst wrapped up in yet another international scandal, Ryan was the hero to save the world again.
Ford returned for 1994’s Clear and Present Danger, and was equally sharp as he had been in Patriot Games. It was great to see Ford reprise the role he’d begun in Patriot Games, and the interplay between Ford and James Earl Jones was dynamic. It also had shades of a reunion to it; of course, James Earl Jones’ best-known role is as the voice of Darth Vader from the Star Wars series. The character of Jack Ryan was a continuing spy film tradition, and Ford was only solidifying the presence he’d developed as the analyst in the previous film.
It was decided for 2002’s Sum of All Fears that Ben Affleck could bring a youthful exuberance to the role, and Affleck definitely rose to the challenge. While studio honchos had considered putting Affleck in a second Jack Ryan picture, it’s believed that 2003’s Gigli did Affleck no favors.
It would be another 12 years before Ryan would return to the big screen, and what’s clear is Paramount made the right move in getting the increasingly popular Chris Pine for the reboot. With youthful brawn and blue eyes sparkling with a blend of mischief and intelligence, there is no question that Pine is the right man for the part. He has an everyman quality about him that is different than what each of the three previous actors have brought to the part.
Jack Ryan is a continuing spy film tradition, and he will continue to set the standard for the modern day espionage hero in the 21st century. He is sharp, strong, and a bit of a regular guy that many people can relate to.
By Christina St-Jean