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The multi-talented, five time Oscar-nominated actor/writer/director Kenneth Branagh is currently in negotiations to direct the long-delayed reboot of the Jack Ryan franchise. For those unfamiliar, the character of Jack Ryan is almost an American version of James Bond. Originally created by author Tom Clancy, the character has been brought to the big screen four times with three different actors.
Alec Baldwin tackled Clancy's character first in John McTiernan's The Hunt for Red October. The role was then taken over by Harrison Ford in back-to-back installments, Patriot Games and Clear and Present Danger. The most recent Jack Ryan film was The Sum of All Fears, starring Ben Affleck as Ryan, and was released a decade ago. This new film has the breakout star of J.J. Abrams's Star Trek reboot, Chris Pine, starring as Ryan this time around. Unfortunately, the film (originally titled Moscow before Paramount did away with that title) has been in development hell because of the endless search for a writer and director (Lost director John Bender was originally attached until he departed from the project last week). With Branagh very close to signing on, maybe production will finally get underway.
The major cause behind the film's turmoil is the lack of focus from all the parties involved with the project. Vulture states that Pine, who accepted the role of Jack Ryan back in 2009, a few months after the success of Star Trek, wants to make a character-driven espionage movie, while Paramount executives are pushing for a more traditional thriller, and producer Lorenzo di Bonaventura wants a straight action flick. A year ago, recent Oscar-nominated writer, Steven Zaillian (Moneyball, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo) was slated to do a rewrite of the film's script back when it was still titled Moscow. But now the untitled film has apparently been written by Spider-Man's David Koepp, who tried to mesh all three preferred genres into one. No current word on the quality of the script Koepp submitted, nor is there a sure chance that Koepp even submitted a script at all. As it is most times in the entertainment industry, these statements are most likely just rumors.
Kenneth Branagh's track record as an actor, writer, and director is rather impressive. Branagh had a great 2011 with the critically acclaimed and commercially successful adaptation of Marvel's Thor, and he also scored an Oscar nomination for Best Supporting Actor after playing Sir Laurence Olivier in My Week with Marilyn. Even if it wasn't for these recent accomplishments, Branagh's overall talent as a filmmaker is impeccable, which is most likely why Paramount would tap him for this kind of project. If Koepp's script does exist and either has a great deal of potential or is sufficient the way it is already, then finally having a worthy and competent director on board will hopefully get the project moving a little more quickly. I hope that Koepp, or whoever eventually gets credited with writing this film, decides to go more in Pine's direction with a character-driven espionage movie. Since this new film will not be based on any of Clancy's novels, unlike the previous four films which were all direct adaptations, a great character-based spy thriller would surely be welcomed. But the film cannot slack; the recent success of Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol has raised the bar on action spy films substantially.
If things begin to progress faster and more smoothly, hopefully we can see this Jack Ryan film begin production later this year and get into multiplexes by 2013 or 2014.