DirectorVarious, created by Carlton Cuse and Graham Roland (based on the novels by Tom Clancy)
Release Date(s)2018 (June 4, 2019)
Studio(s)Amazon Studios/Platinum Dunes/Skydance/Paramount Television (Paramount Home Entertainment)
- Film/Program Grade: B+
- Video Grade: B-
- 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 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 is smart and believable as Ryan’s doctor love interest (and future wife). Marie-Josée Croze has a nice supporting role as a French intelligence agent, and Ali Suliman gives a strong performance too.
Executive producers Carlton Cuse (Lost) and Graham Roland (Almost Human) clearly know what they’re doing and they understand the Ryan character well – they haven’t tried to make him into James Bond or Jason Bourne, which is exactly right. The ironic thing is that we're now 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 renewed the series for at least two more seasons and I’m damn glad they have. Jack Ryan is very good... with the potential to be great.
Jack Ryan is shot digitally and many fans will know that it appears on Amazon Prime in native 4K with HDR. Paramount’s Blu-ray offers all 8 episodes in 1080p HD at the intended 1.78:1 aspect ratio. The clarity is outstanding, as you might expect, with surprisingly refined detail and texturing for an HD image. But the high dynamic range is strongly missed. Colors are very muted here, almost lifeless—especially in the CIA office environments—and the contrast is lacking too, compared to the 4K image, with some of the grayest blacks you’ll ever see and dull whites too. I don’t know who graded this show for regular HD and SDR, but they blew it. With a proper color grade, this video would have earned an A. As it is, it’s disappointing.
The audio is another story. It’s available in a pleasing English Dolby Atmos mix that’s immersive and atmospheric, especially for a TV series. The sound is full and rich, with strong low end, and excellent clarity. The surround play and movement is much more lively than you’d expect, once the story moves out of its office environments. And when the gunfire starts, it’s relentless. Additional audio options include English Audio Description, as well as German and French 5.1 Dolby Digital. Optional subtitles are available in English, English for the Heading Impaired, Danish, German, Spanish, French, Dutch, Norwegian, Finnish, and Swedish.
Unfortunately, the only extras on this 2-disc set are 4 brief deleted scenes in HD (one each for the episodes French Connection, The Wolf, End of Honor, and The Boy). That’s it... no audio commentaries, no featurettes, no Season Two previews. Nothing. I mean, fuck… you can find at least a handful of behind-the-scenes EPKs on YouTube. They aren’t much, but they’re better than almost literally nothing. Again, disappointing.
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 it’s off to a great start. But this Blu-ray release is frustrating. At the very least, Paramount should have created a 4K Ultra HD/Blu-ray combo and conjured up a couple of decent extras. This series deserves much better than this.
[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