How does Jack Ryan become, Jack Ryan? Was he always a slick and smooth operator? This film not only rewrites his past but also gives him a reason to fight (the 9/11 attacks) and then join the Marines. In this retelling Ryan, Chris Pine, gives flesh to the man. He is not a bond type hero, but indeed a person, who reacts as anyone would.
After his helicopter is shot down in Afghanistan, he is wounded, and goes through rehab. While there he meets his fiancée Cathy (Kiera Knightley). It is at Walter Reed, that he is recruited to be in the CIA through Harper, Kevin Costner, as an analyst.
At this juncture the movie takes a sudden detour. Jack must keep who he is a secret from Cathy, while still maintaining his undercover life at his job. (He works at a bank). Pine gives a nice sense of a man caught between two worlds, what he can share with others, and what he cannot. There are small clues to who he really is, and then the crossing of the line from analyst to operational, which leads us to the core of the story. One could go further and expound on how we all play various roles within life, and are one person in one area and one in another, yet, who we are, who we love, and the choices we make define us.
Symbolically, when the movie opens, Jack is asleep and what wakes him? The terror attack of 9/11, this seems to be his “wake up call” to what he should be doing. Similarly, the climax of the movie also involves a terror attack which of course Jack and his operatives must stop. There are moments of sheer implausibility and out right clichés, yet the strength of this story is not in larger elements such as these, but in the small ones.
This was the first film in quite a while where the hero is not perfect and does not have all the gadgets or techniques to out maneuver all the bad guys. His hands shake, after his first kill. He is clearly unspun. Thus, we have a human being on the screen instead of a superhuman automaton. The hero becomes human and suddenly his actions are ours.