Similar to their own beach read-based "Jack Reacher," Paramount has taken author Tom Clancy's most famous hero, CIA analyst Jack Ryan, and given him a new lease on cinematic life with next year's creatively-titled blockbuster "Jack Ryan."
Kind of a "Jack Ryan Begins," if you will, the new movie stars Chris Pine as Ryan, a character who first hit the screen more than 20 years ago in "The Hunt for Red October." With the Cold War long behind us, is the character still relevant all these years after his inception?
December 25, 2013
Because piggybacking off the iconic value of one film series wasn't enough, "Star Trek" star Chris Pine is doubling down by taking over the Tom Clancy franchise as a young buck version of the titular hero, previously played by Alec Baldwin, Harrison Ford and Ben Affleck. Skinny pirate Keira Knightley beat out the likes of Felicity Jones, Evangeline Lilly, Kate Beckinsale and Jessica Biel to play the hero's eternally-distressed wife Dr. Cathy Ryan, seen prior onscreen in the form of Anne Archer, Bridget Moynahan and Gates McFadden (of "Star Trek: The Next Generation"). Of course, it wouldn't be a Kenneth Branagh movie without the versatile thesp leaving the director's chair to give moviegoers the gift of his talented Shakespearean visage on-screen, which is why he'll be co-headlining as the Russian villain.
The Hunt For a Grizzled Veteran
At this time no one outside the principal cast has been announced, but we know at least one famous face from the past that could be getting a lot more exposure: Kevin Costner. The "Dances With Wolves" Oscar-winner has been laying pretty low this past decade but recently got tired of hearing crickets chirping at the box office and decided to go big again; hence his taking the role of William Harper, a legendary CIA Field Agent who trains Ryan. He may also play mentor to lead character John Clark (to possibly be played by Tom Hardy) in Paramount's upcoming version of Clancy's "Without Remorse." Harper is planned to be the lynchpin character that ties these separate movies together, essentially making Costner the Nick Fury of the Clancy-verse, or like Michael Keaton's Ray Nicolette in "Jackie Brown" and "Out of Sight."
Coming hot off of Marvel's "Thor," the first truly massive mainstream hit in his directorial career, Kenneth Branagh is now officially much ado about blockbusters. The director/star of such classical William Shakespeare adaptations as "Hamlet" proved he could make a contemporary crowd-pleaser and now turns his colorful, kinetic eye towards the Clancy's world of espionage and governmental power plays. This will be fairly new territory for the talented Brit, who should bring to the film his excellent ear for dialogue and character … as well as his sometimes annoying fondness for tilted Dutch angles.
Tom Clancy + "Top Gun" ÷ "Goldfinger" = "Jack Ryan"
Paramount tried to reboot their Clancy-verse a decade ago with the Ben Affleck-led "The Sum of All Fears," but, despite healthy box office returns, the honeymoon was over for America's love affair with Affleck. After that film's lukewarm audience reception the franchise lay dormant until Paramount found a new golden boy to play Jacky Ryan in the form of their youthful Captain Kirk, Chris Pine. They hired lauded TV director Jack Bender ("Lost") to make his feature debut, but due to his television duties, scheduling difficulties with Pine or possibly the many drastic rewrites the project went through, he backed out. Once Branagh was in place the film got off the ground quickly and has begun shooting in Montreal, the UK and on New York's Wall Street. Huffington Post featured early photos from the NYC set featuring Pine channeling Tom Cruise to the best of his ability riding a sleek motorcycle and standing next to a helicopter opposite Costner. The character has certainly evolved a long way from the slightly meek, nervous bureaucrat with a hidden heroic streak as Alec Baldwin portrayed him in "The Hunt For Red October."
Clear and Present Plot Breakdown
Per Variety, this reboot finds Pine's Jack Ryan as a young ex-Marine working as a successful financial analyst in Moscow when he uncovers a plot by his employers and a local Russian government to finance a terrorist attack that will collapse the U.S. economy and make the dollar worthless … more so than it's been for the past five years or so. In true Jack Ryan fashion, he will have to complain to somebody that he's "just an analyst" before finally mustering up some courage to save his wife, America, small children, cherished pets, the microwave, etc.
"[It's] an original story that allows us to understand how Jack Ryan develops into a CIA analyst, before joining, and perhaps even joining, the CIA," said Branagh. "It's a very contemporary action thriller set in the here and now."
The Sum of All Buzz
While we wish we could report that this operation will go smooth and by the numbers, industry insiders have pegged this troubled production as a "Bay of Pigs"-style quagmire. Collider reported in July that the many cooks in the kitchen all had something different in mind. "Pine apparently wanted to make the film a character-driven espionage movie, producer Lorenzo di Bonaventura wanted an action pic, and Paramount executives were in favor of turning the untitled reboot into a thriller. The key was finding a screenwriter who could come up with a fair compromise of all three, and David Koepp was the most recent scripter brought on to do rewrites." Indeed, "Jack Ryan" currently boasts three other name screenwriters in addition to Koepp: Adam Cozad, Anthony Peckham and Steven Zaillian.
Looking Forward to 'Jack Ryan' Without Remorse
Originally to be titled "Moscow" and to center on a disastrous helicopter crash during a Marine mission when Ryan was 23, the shift to a financial-centered plot does have the whiff of a studio-mandated trending topic with little-to-nothing to do with anything from Clancy's eight books featuring the character. Of course, deviating from the source material worked spectacularly for the "Bourne" franchise, and we like the idea of Pine giving the character a more meat-and-potatoes heroic edge. The addition of Costner and Branagh in supporting parts intrigues us to no end and we look forward to Paramount establishing the kind of spy spinoff franchise that "The Bourne Legacy" didn't live up to.