Jack Ryan picked me up

“To blab is to help the enemy!” 1954 Soviet poster

Flying 4 hours from London to Moscow and from Moscow to London the next day could be a bit tiring were it not for the new Jack Ryan movie on board the plane.

It is always a delight for a Russian to see Russia portrayed in a Hollywood blockbuster as a country of hapless oligarchs who can’t contract a decent ex-KGB killer and have to hire obese students from Uganda to do the job. Why Uganda?! A black-skinned killer in Moscow must be a wizard to beat the challenge of remaining inconspicuous.

You also know it is a Hollywood kind of Moscow when all roads in it take you to the Kremlin, either instantly or eventually. No. It is possible to live in Moscow and not see the Red Square for years. The FSB would be happy if foreign spies gravitated towards the Kremlin: so much easier to ferret them out.

Kevin Costner, the CIA boss of Jack Ryan, steals a dog to appear as a Muscovite walking the dog (and not meeting his CIA contact at Staraya Square, which, in the real Moscow, is a quarter of a mile from the main FSB building). Come on. No one with the kind of Costner face can pass as a Russian, especially if he’s walking the dog dressed to kill any woman aged over 30 who may come his way, and especially if it is done in front of the Presidential Administration that’s facing the boulevard where the meeting takes place.

Kiera Knightley is at her best though, when she flies to Moscow intending to catch her husband there with a lover, but finds out a loaded gun hidden in his bedside cupboard instead.

When she puts on her best Anna Karenina face and demands an explanation, Jack honestly says he works for the CIA. Thank god, she cries out embracing her boyfriend, I though you were cheating on me!

This Oscar-quality dialogue did to me what the kiss of Prince Charming once did to Snow White. It revitalised me as a Red Bull injection, and made me watch the flick until its predictably violent end, with a few cameos along the way.

The semi-final scene, when the villain oligarch says, “All I did, I did for Mother Russia” before he’s shot by his FSB boss (who mutters, “This is for Mother Russia as well” as he pulls the trigger) made my day just before landing at Heathrow.

So, thank you, the Daily Prompt for prompting me to tell my readers that unless you’re stuck on a plane, Tom Clancy Revised and Modernised is not something worth your time.

Don’t be disappointed with me, this is a temporary post, a cinematographic warning that will soon be replaced by a post on Veronese or Matisse’s cutouts. 


  1. I was laughing SO hard at this. Every note is true. I just CANNOT with the Hollywood portrayals of Russia and Russians. Also, I regularly watch NCIS LA, and the lead undercover operative on it is supposed to be native-level fluent in several Russian dialects, and he cant get one single word out correctly when he’s ‘speaking Russian’! >.< I cant. I just cant. Yet now I have the urge to watch The Hunt for Red October.

    1. I mean, I could understand the goofs when Moscow was an exotic land behind barbed wire. But today, when it is easy to travel, hire Russian actors to play Russian characters, and, perhaps, Russian writers to work out decent dialogues? I don’t get it.

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