DirectorVarious, created by Carlton Cuse and Graham Roland (based on the novels by Tom Clancy)
Release Date(s)2018 (November 29, 2022)
Studio(s)Amazon Studios/Platinum Dunes/Skydance/Paramount Television (Paramount Home Entertainment)
- Film/Program Grade: B+
- Video Grade: A+
- Audio Grade: A-
- Extras Grade: D-
Given the degree to which Paramount has struggled to sustain (and reboot) Tom Clancy’s Jack Ryan character for the big screen (with no less than four actors playing the role in five filmed attempts), it was both disappointing and frustrating when it was announced that they’d farmed the franchise out to Amazon as a Prime-exclusive dramatic series. Then came word that John Krasinski (of NBC’s The Office) would play the title character, which seemed a highly unlikely choice. And yet, shockingly, the resulting series works—not just well enough, very well indeed.
Not only does Krasinski make an unexpectedly good Ryan, who we meet here early in his career as a CIA analyst, the show is well cast across the board. Wendell Pierce (Treme, The Wire) co-stars as Ryan’s boss, James Greer, who must climb back up the ladder at CIA after being demoted to a dead-end post as Ryan’s boss. Abbie Cornish (Sucker Punch) is smart and believable as Ryan’s doctor love interest (and future wife), Cathy. Marie-Josée Croze (Munich, Tell No One) has a nice supporting role as a French intelligence agent who becomes involved in Ryan and Greer’s investigation into a new international terrorism network in Yemen, and Ali Suliman (Paradise Now, The Swimmers) gives a strong performance as well as the leader of that network.
Executive producers Carlton Cuse (Lost) and Graham Roland (Almost Human) clearly know what they’re doing and understand the Ryan character well—they haven’t tried to make him into James Bond or Jason Bourne here, which is exactly right. The ironic thing is that real-world America is essentially involved in a whole new cold war with even more participants. So the root concept of Jack Ryan as a young CIA analyst trying to make sense of a complicated and dangerous world is more relevant than ever, and the show takes no shortcuts with it, even making a decent effort to humanize its villains beyond the usual stock “War on Terror” clichés. Rather than give away the plot for Season One, I think it’s best if you just dive in and experience it for yourself. But Amazon has already committed to giving this series a four-season run and I’m damn glad they have. Jack Ryan is very good, with the potential to be genuinely great.
The first season of Jack Ryan was captured digitally in ProRes 4444 XQ (3.2K) format, using Arri Alexa Mini cameras, and is finished as a native 4K Digital Intermediate at the 1.78:1 aspect ratio with grading for high dynamic range. Its release on Ultra HD presents that source with HDR10 only (though its streaming presentation on Amazon Prime has recently added Dolby Vision). Nevertheless, the UHD image on disc is fantastic, with clean and abundant detail, refined texturing, vibrant, nuanced color, and lovely depth. Contrast is very good, with strong shadows and naturally bold highlights. It must be noted that Paramount’s previous Blu-ray edition featured disappointing HD image quality, with grayed blacks, dull whites, and muted colors. Not so here—this show was meant to be seen with HDR and the episodes have been encoded on a pair of BD-100 discs to allow for maximum video bitrates. Obviously, the cinematography isn’t Lawrence of Arabia, but for this particular series it’s essentially a reference-grade 4K image, noticeably better than the streamed 4K image on Prime, and a massive improvement over its Blu-ray counterpart.
Audio on these 4K discs represents a slight compromise, but not an egregious one. Whereas the previous Blu-rays included object-based Dolby Atmos mixes, the new 4K discs feature lossless DTS-HD Master Audio. But while some fans will be tempted to complain about the switch, I’m not one of them. This title isn’t say, Top Gun: Maverick—it’s a TV series, with a TV series surround mix. Its worth noting that Atmos files are somewhat (though not dramatically) larger than equivalent DTS-HD MA files, so it’s likely that in order to squeeze four episodes onto each BD-100 disc with high image quality, the decision was made to switch audio formats. But I’ve spent a bit of time comparing the two, and what you lose going from Atmos to lossless DTS-HD MA is negligible compared to what you gain in image quality. Keep in mind again, the Blu-ray image was disappointing, whereas this 4K presentation is gorgeous. And both offer terrific sound quality, despite the codec difference. The mixes are both immersive and atmospheric, with a full, rich sound, firm low end, pleasing dynamics, and excellent clarity. Surround use and movement are more lively than you might be expecting, especially once the series moves out of its early office settings. And when the gunfire starts, it’s relentless. Switching to DTS-HD MA from Atmos is a fair trade here, in my opinion. Note that English Audio Description is also available, as are optional subtitles in English and English for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing. (The previous Blu-ray’s foreign language tracks and subtitles are not included, which again suggests decisions made for disc space reasons.)
Paramount’s 4K release is a 2-disc set, containing only the episodes in 4K on UHD—there are no Blu-rays here, nor is there a Digital code, or much in the way of special features. However, the set does include four very brief deleted scenes, as follows:
- French Connection – Deleted Scene (HD – :18)
- The Wolf – Deleted Scene (HD – :57)
- End of Honor – Deleted Scene (HD – :36)
- The Boy – Deleted Scene (HD – 1:11)
Unfortunately, there are no audio commentaries, no featurettes, not even the handful of behind-the-scenes EPKs you can find on YouTube. The lack of extras is disappointing, but you’re here for the series itself, and that much you definitely get here in high quality.
It should be noted that Jack Ryan: Season One (like Season Two, which is also now available and is reviewed here on The Bits) is an MOD 4K release, featuring properly-manufactured discs produced in small batches as demand requires. So if it goes out of stock occasionally… or you’re taken aback by the somewhat higher SRP… now you know why.
As a dramatic series, a political thriller, and a TV reboot of the classic Tom Clancy franchise, Jack Ryan is better than it has any damn right to be and is off to a great start. And while Paramount’s long-awaited 4K release is light on content, it delivers A/V quality in spades. If you love this series, UHD disc is absolutely the best way to watch it. Recommend for fans.
[Editor’s Note: If you’re interested in seeing the previous feature films featuring this character, try checking them out in Paramount’s Jack Ryan: 5-Film Collection on 4K Ultra HD—reviewed here at The Bits.]
- Bill Hunt