Jack Ryan. Just saying the name conjures up images of Alec Baldwin, er Harrison Ford, actually make that Ben Affleck. You know what, I don’t even know who the real Jack Ryan is! Ryan, a character created by the late Tom Clancy, was the epitome of the Cold War and America’s answer to James Bond. Of course Bond has had many more films and only a few more actors portray him over the years, but if the British can have Bond – we’ve got Ryan. Before I go on a tirade about Hollywood and their constant re-making of films, I’m always a bit intrigued to see their “reboots.” Though I’m pretty opposed to re-making a film, I’m actually in favor of it if done right. Take The Bourne Legacy, for example – I loved what they did with that and it not only produced a new film, but it was done in a way that was very unique and clever. It’d been nearly twelve years since we’d seen Jack Ryan on screen (Ben Affleck taking on the title role in The Sum of all Fears) and we meet a newer and much younger Jack Ryan. Was it worth the wait or should they have pulled the plug on this hero around the turn of the century?
Chris Pine (of Star Trek fame) plays Jack Ryan, a young Lieutenant in the Marines whose helicopter is struck by a missile, nearly killing him. With the aid of Dr. Cathy Muller (Keira Knightley), Ryan and Muller are shown a decade later as a couple, and an unmarried one at that. Ryan, now a financial analyst, notices a large amount of activity and finds anomalies in the accounts of a Russian named Cherevin (Kenneth Branagh). Wanting answers, Jack (also employed with the CIA) travels to Russia to investigate. Obviously things go from bad to worse as his life is immediately in danger and it doesn’t help when Cathy surprises him by showing up unannounced in Russia. It’s then discovered that Cherevin’s plan is to topple the global economy…unless Jack Ryan can stop him.
I was always a passing fan of the Jack Ryan movies (I never read the books), though I have to say that my favorite of the five films is Patriot Games – and only that because as a resident of Annapolis, Maryland, some of the scenes were shot around the United States Naval Academy. Ok, my reasons go beyond that, it did have a pretty good cast with Sean Bean, James Earl Jones and Harrison Ford leading the way. Clearly Paramount is trying to re-ignite the Jack Ryan franchise and I found the film to be above average at best. I think had it not had the “Jack Ryan” label attached to it, it’d just be another action film, but with the history of the character there was a bit more to this. In much the same way Live Free or Die Hard was just another film, it had the recognizable face of Bruce Willis to set it apart from other films. Fans of the franchise will no doubt enjoy the film, but is it enough to churn out another film? I think not.
Video: How’s it look?
As pristine, sharp and free of errors as some of the new to Blu-ray films are, I found a few things that I wasn’t expecting in the film. Yes it looks great and the 2.40:1 AVC HD image looks darn good, but some of the scenes seemed to have a bit of grit to them. I also found that the contrast seemed turned up on a few occasions. While not “bad”, it was either intentional by the filmmakers or just not up to the standard set by so many other new to Blu-ray films. Colors seemed a bit on the saturated side and detail is, as expected, amazing.
Audio: How’s it sound?
One thing that wasn’t lacking was the robust DTS HD Master Audio sound mix. There were a few scenes that really made the room shake and as an action/adventure movie, I can say that there are more than a few of these scenes. Vocals are rich and crisp, Kenneth Branagh’s Russian accent might use a bit of work, but that’s a testament to the sound itself. The LFE do play a part in the film as we’re treated to a car chase scene, a helicopter blowing up and several gunshots fired. Surrounds are always present as well, even providing some background ambiance in an otherwise boring business office – how’s that for use!
Supplements: What are the extras?
The DVD has no extras, so pretty much any and all features on the disc are found on the Blu-ray (do you think Paramount is trying to send a message?). Let’s take a look.
AudioCommentary – Kenneth Branagh and Producer Lorenzo di Bonaventura combine to form a very entertaining and ultra-informative track. I’ve heard a few other commentaries by Branagh in the past and he’s not lost his touch. Wearing duel hats as an actor and director, this track is loaded with all sorts of trivia, details of the particular scenes and so forth. For those that enjoyed the film, this is a perfect compliment to it.
Deleted & Extended Scenes – Six total, and playable with or without commentary.
Jack Ryan: The Smartest Guy in the Room – This is more of a “History of Jack Ryan” with scenes from the previous films: The Hunt for Red October, Patriot Games, Clear and Present Danger and The Sum of All Fears. Pretty much everything is discussed here, why the franchise is being “re-booted” and why Chris Pine was chosen for the lead.
Sir Kenneth Branagh: The Tsar of Shadow Recruit – If your only experience with Branagh is as Gilderoy Lockhart from Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, sit back and watch this feature. He’s been knighted and is essentially the modern-day Lawrence Oliver. The accolades by the cast and crew are well-deserved indeed.
Jack Ryan: A Thinking Man of Action – We see a more action-oriented Jack Ryan in this film and we get a brief look at some of his choice scenes.
Old Enemies Return – Ah, Mother Russia, that country will never cease to be an enemy to the United States no matter what the state of real-world affairs are. Learn a bit why three of the five Ryan films have had the Russians as an enemy.