"The Hunt for Red October" stars Alec Baldwin as CIA analyst Jack Ryan. 1990
Ben Affleck in "The Sum of All Fears."
By Barbara Vancheri / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
Like James Bond and Batman, the character Jack Ryan has been played by more than one actor.
He sprang from the imagination of author Tom Clancy and started on the screen as Alec Baldwin, aged into Harrison Ford and did a Benjamin Button act and peeled away the years with Ben Affleck.
Now, Chris Pine -- who knows a little something about two or more two performers playing the same signature role thanks to his inheritance of Captain Kirk and "Star Trek" -- is taking over in "Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit" opening in theaters today.
It's an origin story, introducing the character as a student at the London School of Economics who is motivated to join the American military by the 9/11 attacks. He is severely injured in Afghanistan, struggles to regain his health and lands a desk job on Wall Street that's a cover for the CIA.
When sent to Moscow to investigate some suspicious financial data, he faces mortal danger to himself and his fiancee (Keira Knightley) in the film featuring Kevin Costner as Ryan's mentor and director Kenneth Branagh as a Russian villain, complete with accent and a penchant for vodka.
A look at the other Jack Ryans in the past two-plus decades.
'The Hunt for Red October'
Opened in theaters: March 2, 1990.
The story: Moscow, Washington and a low-level CIA analyst named Jack Ryan track a renegade Soviet captain (Sean Connery), commanding the most sophisticated sub on the planet. Is he planning to defect to the United States or obliterate it?
Jack Ryan: Alec Baldwin, 31 years old at the time.
What we said: "Baldwin, who has played everything from a ghost in 'Beetlejuice' to Melanie Griffith's rejected beau in 'Working Girl,' is becoming quite the Everyman. He's overshadowed by the sheer force of Connery's performance but manages to prove quite effective as an unlikely hero."
Box office: $200,512,643 worldwide, according to Box Office Mojo.
Oscar love: Won for sound effects editing, and also nominated for film editing and sound.
Post-Gazette rating: Enough surprises creep into the story to keep the audience off balance and Mr. Connery, with regal bearing, set jaw and white beard and hairpiece, is a commanding figure. The movie engages in none-too-subtle flag-waving and, in a film with such a serious subject, there's a surprising amount of humor -- to the point that it breaks the tension near the movie's end. B (equivalent to today's HHH).
Bonus fact: President Reagan received this book as a Christmas gift and quipped at a dinner that he was losing sleep because he couldn't put it down, an endorsement that boosted the novel to The New York Times best-seller list.
Opened: June 5, 1992.
The story: Jack Ryan, now an ex-CIA analyst, finds himself and his family targets of an extremist offshoot of the IRA, seeking vengeance for a thwarted assassination plot in London.
Jack Ryan: Harrison Ford, then age 49.
What we said: "A crackerjack thriller."
Box office: $178,051,587 worldwide.
Oscar love: None.
Post-Gazette rating: A-minus.
Bonus fact: When Paramount delayed shooting, Mr. Baldwin was forced to choose between this thriller and playing Stanley Kowalski in a Broadway revival of "A Streetcar Named Desire." He opted for the stage and earned a Tony nomination while Mr. Ford scored a deal to play Ryan in three movies but would do only two.
'Clear and Present Danger'
Opened: Aug. 3, 1994.
The story: CIA agent Jack Ryan investigates the murder of one of the U.S. president's friends, a businessman with secret ties to Colombian drug cartels.
Jack Ryan: Mr. Ford, 52 at time of release.
What we said: For a movie with a fair share of action, this drags along for most of its 140-minute running time. For a thriller, the movie simply lacks enough suspense. It's clear from the beginning what is going on and who is behind it, even though some characters play both sides of the street.
As hard as Mr. Ford tries, the only people with any real depth are an operative played by Willem Dafoe with a sparkling, slippery hardness and the president (Donald Moffat), who projects just enough daffiness to be dangerous. James Earl Jones is welcome as Ryan's boss but there's not enough of him.
Box office: $215,887,717 worldwide.
Oscar love: Nominated for sound and sound effects editing.
Post-Gazette rating: 2 stars out of four.
Bonus fact: Highest grossing, to date, of the Clancy adaptations and the one that forced peace between the author -- who thought Mr. Ford too old and also didn't like the way Hollywood tampered with his plots -- and Paramount.
'The Sum of All Fears'
Opened: May 31, 2002.
The story: A terrorist group is trying to ratchet up tensions between America and Russia while it smuggles a nuclear weapon into the United States that it plans to detonate at the Super Bowl in Baltimore. Jack Ryan and his CIA colleagues, led by the director (Morgan Freeman), have to figure out what's going on and try to stop it before the unthinkable happens.
Jack Ryan: Ben Affleck, 29 years old.
What we said: Mr. Affleck is most believable in action scenes where he and that other Clancy stalwart, John Clark (Liev Schreiber), begin putting the pieces together, especially because the movie doesn't try to make Ryan a superhero. The terrorists come off as corny and contrived, and the ending is problematic.
Box office: $193,921,372 worldwide.
Oscar love: None.
Post-Gazette rating: 2-1/2 stars out of four.
Bonus fact: Director Phil Alden Robinson had finished his first cut of the film before Sept. 11, 2001, and said he didn't have to make any changes in reaction to the attack. He told the PG he tried to make "an anti-war, anti-violence movie," one in which the proper response to terrorism is "that you don't rush headlong into violence. You get the facts."
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