Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit
By Jon Rutledge
The latest Jack Ryan movie takes us back to the beginning. If they go back any further it will have to be Jack Ryan: Cub Scout Camp (come to think of it I would watch the hell out of that movie).
Thankfully, the new cast and the updated story works well. Not having a novel as a basis seems to have given the writers a lot of freedom, allowing for all the elements of a good spy film with the added benefits of the characters rich history and personal traits.
It kicks off with Jack Ryan (Chris Pine) is in college when the 9/11 terror attacks change his plans. He joins the marines and has an accident. While recovering he receives care from Cathy Muller (Keira Knightley) and the two start a relationship. As he recovers he is also being watched by Thomas Harper (Kevin Costner) who recruits the young buck into the CIA as an analyst who goes up against Viktor Cherevin (Kenneth Branagh) who is planning to bring the American economy to its knees.
Kenneth Branagh does double duty as the director and the bad guy here and he seems to have had a blast working on the film. I have enjoyed a number of his directorial projects having first seen his work in Dead Again and liked it a lot. It seems twenty-four years of directing projects has paid off. I never pegged him as the tough Russian gangster type, but he does ruthless well here - I will never look at a light bulb the same again.
Chris Pine is really making a name for himself in the heroic lead role here too. I just hope he doesn't pigeon hole himself into that type of role because his charm lies in the naturalness he brings to his roles. His co-star Kiera Knightley, however, seems greatly underused throughout. She is incredibly talented but the role shes given here essentially relegates her to little more than a damsel in distress at worst... and a cute sidekick at best. Kevin Costner does well as the supervising agent. He performs the role with the silent air of command that makes you wish he was back on the big screen more often.
Overall the pace is good once it gets going due to a rather poor start as it jumps erratically through a number of high points in order to get us to the meeting of Ryan and Cathy. After the clunky start they slip comfortably into the action-adventure, with the second and third acts one long roller-coaster ride.
As a reboot that doesn't have a book as a guide, this movie is a departure for the franchise. It has taken on a life of its own. If this had a stronger turn-out it could have been the first of a whole new era in the spy genre. I wonder what Tom Clancy would have thought of the direction of the character?
Sadly, Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit doesn't do enough bolster the franchise which, in Hollywood, means the studio won't be spending money on any more tales for a long time.
Conclusion: Movie: 60%