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Is Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit Based On A True Story?

Jack Ryan is one of the most popular fictional spies in the world, having consistently appeared on New York Times Best Sellers lists since the 1980s, and on the big and small screen since the 1990s. The character made his debut appearance in Tom Clancy's Cold War-inspired thriller "The Hunt For Red October," which hit bookshelves in 1984. Future literary appearances saw Ryan tackling several missions and assignments inspired by real-life events, including "Red Rabbit," which was influenced by the assassination attempt of Pope John Paul II.

Clancy's debut novel was so successful that Jack Ryan's first appearance was later adapted into the film of the same name, with Alec Baldwin in the lead role as the hotshot CIA agent. Since then, several notable actors have portrayed the iconic literary hero on the big screen, including Harrison Ford, Ben Affleck, and Chris Pine. John Krasinski currently headlines as the hero in the Amazon Prime series of the same name.

Chris Pine debuted as the character in "Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit." While the 2014 film failed to start off a new franchise, it's still an engaging spy thriller worth watching. As a wholly original take on the Jack Ryan character, the film also draws from several real-life events. 

Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit took inspiration from historical events

"Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit" operates as an origin story for the CIA agent, showing him in his early days as he navigates what essentially becomes his first field assignment. Directed by Kenneth Brannagh, the film recontextualizes the character, placing him in the modern-day.

In the film, villain and Russian oligarch Viktor Cherevin (Brannagh) places his son Aleksandr (Alec Utgoff) in the United States as a sleeper agent. In real life, the most recent instance of sleeper agents on U.S. soil (that we know of) is what the U.S. Department of Justice dubbed the Illegals Program (via CBS News), which consisted of several Russian sleeper agents embedded as American citizens to gain intelligence. Ten agents were arrested in 2010 (via the DOJ) four years before "Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit" hit cinemas.

Aleksandr Cherevin's mission in America is to detonate a bomb on Wall Street, New York City's financial hub. Jack Ryan ultimately thwarts Aleksandr's plan, resulting in the Viktor getting assassinated by his fellow Russian oligarchs. Cherevin's twisted plan to destroy Wall Street appears to draw some inspiration from the Wall Street bombing of 1920. Though it was never discovered who placed the bomb, which led to the death of over 30 people and the injuries of hundreds, historians believe that one of the reasons was to cause general terrorism (via History). The key moment in American history draws a striking resemblance to Cherevin's plan to destabilize America.

While "Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit" may not be a direct adaptation of a Tom Clancy novel or present itself as a true story, the spy-thriller successfully draws from real-life events that have influenced modern geopolitics.