Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit (2014) Directed by Kenneth Branagh. Starring: Chris Pine, Kevin Costner, Keira Knightley. IMDB says: “Jack Ryan, as a young covert CIA analyst, uncovers a Russian plot to crash the U.S. economy with a terrorist attack.”
Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit is the fifth installment in the scattered collection of Jack Ryan films. The Hunt for Red October (1990), Patriot Games (1992), Clear and Present Danger (1994) and The Sum of All Fears (2002) all follow Tom Clancy’s famous book character Jack Ryan at various points in the fictional character’s story arc. This latest film starring Chris Pine as our title hero is the character’s origin story, meant to reboot the franchise. Does it pull it off? To an extent, the film manages to bring a little life to the long dormant series but it doesn’t titillate nearly as much as it should.
As mentioned above, this movie followed the character from the beginning of his story. After surviving a brutal helicopter crash during active marine duty, Jack is targeted by CIA agent Thomas Harper (Kevin Costner) and recruited to join the agency as a junior analyst. His cover entails him working as a stock broker on Wall Street while he manages covert operations. His girlfriend Cathy (Keira Knightley) is in love with Jack but becomes increasingly suspicious of his closed off and secretive behavior. After he discovers evidence of a possible terrorist attack , Ryan is forced to leave the safety of his desk job and become active field agent.
The performances in the film are acceptable across the board. Chris Pine maintains the level of leading man status I’ve come to expect from him and fits right in with Kevin Costner and his fashionable glasses. Knightley is fine even if her American accent really distracted me for most of the film’s running time. I didn’t find that her and Pine to have a whole lot of on screen chemistry either but her performance was still serviceable. On the other side of the coin, I really enjoyed Kenneth Branagh’s turn as the Russian villain Viktor Cherevin. On paper, the character easily borders on over the top but Branagh plays it just right and in turn makes Viktor feel authentic and terrifying.
From a filmmaking standpoint, everything about the movie screams made for TV. I don’t mean like afterschool special made for TV but more like you can stand to wait to see this on your small screen. There isn’t a whole lot of actual action set pieces in the film and most are not particularly large in scope. The movie isn’t all that luscious to look at either. If anything, the benefit of watching the movie in the theater would be the sound, as the movie has a few flourishes of boisterous noise. Otherwise, it’s a total at home watch.
The main asset and main problem with Shadow Recruit is that it’s a very basic espionage thriller. It follows a classic formula of the genre – non-American evil doers, stealthy tech based spy procedures and the race against time tension – but none of it is presented as anything new or exciting. Depending on what you’re looking for in the film this will work for or against it. If you missed the Tom Clancy classics of yesteryear and are yearning for more, then Shadow Recruit will get the job done. But if you want to see a fresh story or even one that will be able to surprise you in any fashion then I doubt that this reboot will win you over.