Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit

Keira Knightley and Chris Pine in Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit (Paramount Pictures)
Keira Knightley and Chris Pine in Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit (Paramount Pictures)
What it's about:

A young Jack Ryan uncovers a financial terrorist plot. The story follows him from 9/11, through his tour of duty in Afghanistan, which scarred him forever, and into his early days in the Financial Intelligence Unit of the modern CIA, where he becomes an analyst, under the guardianship of his handler, Harper.

When Ryan believes he’s uncovered a Russian plot to collapse the United States economy, he goes from being an analyst to becoming a field man and must fight to save his own life and those of countless others, while also trying to protect the thing that's more important to him than anything, his relationship with his fiancée, Cathy.

What we thought:

Although spy thrillers have taken a bit of a back seat in the blockbuster business (with the exception of the rebooted James Bond franchise) Tom Clancy’s most famous character gets a successful restart with Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit. Although not based on a specific novel like the four previous films (The Hunt for Red October, Patriot Games, Clear and Present Danger and Sum of All Fear), it is a thrilling espionage tale that could jumpstart a franchise to rival 007.

However, Jack Ryan does in no way compete with that of Skyfall. The biggest problem with this thriller is the lack of twists. The proposed attack is revealed from the get-go and the plot points are predictable, but this is made up with the good acting from Chris Pine, Keira Knightley and Kenneth Branagh, who specifically brings to life a cruel but calculating Russian patriot villain. Branagh was also the director of Jack Ryan, and although he generally does Shakespeare movies with the exception of Thor, the actor/director does prove his versatility in genres.

It pains me though to put down Kevin Costner, but his character was probably the most bland, conveying the feeling that Costner wasn’t very interested in the role. Pine and Knightley definitely outshone this veteran, but the fault could also lie with the writers in that they couldn’t come up with a more original CIA recruiter persona than a burly man that just wants to get the job done.

Whether or not Jack Ryan is plausible as a real-life scenario is up for debate, but at least it’s not something in the line of an American city being destroyed by a stolen nuclear bomb, which became outdated by the end of the 90s. This threat is a lot more powerful a first world country such as the US. However, the Russians as the bad guys is very cliché and would appear Hollywood just can’t get over the Cold War.

Beyond the clichéd villain, the movie did however portray Russia as extremely modern and high-tech and some of the action scenes were extremely bad-ass, yet not as over-board as that of the Die Hard series (although that’s part of the reason you watch Die Hard). But the plot does have some super slow points, which is a no-no for a spy movie, as the first scenes dwell way too long on Jack Ryan’s backstory and the fact that he meets his future-girlfriend and ten years later she is still only a girlfriend.

It might not live up to the memory of Tom Clancy for fans, but as the choice for spy thriller movies has been conspicuously sparse, this one is not a bad one to potentially give the genre a boost. It just needs a bigger injection of originality.

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