Action Heroes We Love: Jack Ryan? But He's Just An Analyst!

Illustration for article titled Action Heroes We Love: Jack Ryan? But He's Just An Analyst!

Hands down, my favorite action hero is Jack Ryan — stockbroker, CIA agent, president, and subject of many failed reboots. He’s the action hero who is at his best when he’s not actioning at all. And having Sean Connery in his film doesn’t hurt.


Jack Ryan has had a long career in Hollywood, and spent some of that career learning that his name alone doesn’t sell tickets. He has to be paired with the right actor, the right story, and the right political climate. You can’t just have Jack Ryan running around, shrieking about nuclear bombs and neo-Nazis, and expect him to do well.

In fact, he’s at his best when no one expects him to do well. He’s supposed to be an analyst, sifting through information provided not only by more active men, but more informed men. The Hunt For Red October made the Jack Ryan franchise, and in that movie he spent seventy percent of his time consulting experts on what was happening, twenty percent of his time giving consultations on what was happening, and only ten percent of his time in submarine fights.

Ironically, the fact that he’s supposed to be an observer gives Jack Ryan his most stereotypical action hero trait: he keeps getting drawn in to situations that he doesn’t want to deal with. Like John McClane, who just wants to meet up with his wife, and Indiana Jones, who just wants stuff to be in a museum, Jack Ryan is supposed to be watching all the action from behind a desk. He’s supposed to be going through papers and running numbers and, if he’s lucky, getting to talk to a couple of high ranking military officials. He’s forced into situations in which he’s helped commandeer a secret Soviet submarine. But, since he’s there, he’ll happily geek out over his book with the rogue submarine commander.

The big nerd.



It seems like an under used trope these days, but nothing makes me empathize with an action hero more than when they screw up as much as they succeed. John McClane in Die Hard may kill a whole bunch of terrorists, but he continually fails to find a good pair of shoes. The recent film Blue Ruin really drew me in because the revenge seeking protagonist was just not very good at revenge. Seeing someone fumble their way through is always more interesting than the flawless hero that always succeeds... just look at how much more intense Superman Returns was as Superman just barely saved that jetliner, versus the rest of the movie.