A new iteration of the Tom Clancy character, Jack Ryan, is about to hit the big screen and to ring in Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit‘s impending January 17, 2014 release, Jack Ryan himself, Chris Pine, and Paramount screened 17 minutes of footage from the film in New York City.
In the Kenneth Branagh-directed film, we follow a young Jack Ryan as he tries to thwart a financial terrorist plot in present day Moscow. Before rolling into the footage, Pine prefaced, “Jack, he’s an analyst. He is a man that is physical, but is much more comfortable being behind the scenes.” Unlike a James Bond or Jason Bourne-type character who can quickly and naturally spring into action, simply put, Jack is scared. Pine further explained, “It’s a scary thing, just like if any of us were confronted with a violent or physical situation. You see a man who actually shakes.” And Pine meant that literally because in the footage screened, Jack trembles quite a bit.
Warning: The rest of this article discusses footage screened, so if youd rather not know how these scenes pan out, please stop here to avoid spoilers.
The footage kicked off with Jack arriving in Moscow. Hes greeted by Nonso Anozie’s Embee, who is Jack’s protective detail and assigned to bring him from the airport to his hotel. Embee’s all smiles as he walks through security and gets his firearm back. While driving to the hotel, Jack does a little sightseeing, pointing out St. Basil’s Cathedral to which Embee playfully laughs and notes, “It looks like ice cream.”
Upon arriving at the hotel, Jack checks in while Embee grabs his bags. Mere seconds after entering the room, the tables turn, literally, when Jack realizes that Embee is actually the enemy. He flips a table and props it up as a shield just in time to deflect Embee’s bullets. Jack dashes into the bathroom while Embee fires a few shots into the door. When Embee gets inside, Jack’s nowhere to be found. Embee shoots through the shower curtain, but Jack surprises him from above, dropping down on top of him, tackling him to the ground and smashing Embee’s head against the toilet along the way. The two continue to wrestle until Jack gets a hold of Embee’s gun. He attempts to shoot Embee at close range, but the gun misfires, giving Embee the opportunity to move in for some hand-to-hand combat. The two stumble into the bathtub, Embee winding up underneath Jack, who turns the water on and then drowns Embee in it.
While talking to Pine after the screening, he admitted that he let his stunt double handle that plunge into the bathtub. “The moment where we tumble into the tank, that wasn’t me.” He continued, “I didn’t feel comfortable enough handling someone [when] you’re going to fall on top of a guy on a tank.”
Pine also pointed out, “In our version, [Jack's] been to war so he’s seen violence before.” While Pine’s Jack does suffer from the trauma of experiencing combat, he’s never actually killed someone himself. Pine elaborated, “Many films in the milieu, in this ilk, it’s like, bad guys die all the time and no one’s really reacting to the fact that people are dying.” He laughed and continued, “Ken and I talked about that in the beginning of the process thinking, well, what would that look like?” And they show us exactly what that looks like at the conclusion of Jack’s fight with Embee.
The action is simple, loaded with detailed close-ups and feels incredibly visceral, but the standout moment is what comes after the combat wraps. Rather than dust off his suit and saunter out of the room, Jack frantically snatches up the stray gun and points it in Embee’s direction. In the process, he startles himself by accidently backing into a button that turns on the shower. Pine added, “Rather than a really fun fight scene, there was this whole emotional component about a guy who thought he was gonna be at a desk job, now he’s just killed a guy, his wife’s maybe coming, there’s a whole human, real life like any guy that you might pass in Manhattan going to his banking job.”
Pine also noted that Jack Ryan was a major departure from the unwavering confidence of Star Trek’s Captain Kirk. “Kirk’s fun because he’s such a blowhard and also tonally in that film, I can be a little bit bigger and there’s comedy and you can go a little bit broader and I love, love that.” Pine continued, “Ken kept on asking me to go smaller and it’s very difficult for me because I’m very used to kind of being, you know, the brash thing.” He also admitted, “Ken kept on saying we just want to rest the camera on your face and see a man thinking and processing what’s happening. I’m not very comfortable with that. I kind of want to do something and he kept on telling me to stop it.”
Even though Pine may not have wanted to sit, talk, think and process, he did do it and he did it well, too. After the fight Embee, we cut to a shot of Jack standing outside with an impeccable view of nighttime Moscow. He places a call, presumably to some sort of handler. The woman on the other end of the line warns, “You have 85 seconds.” When that person instructs him to go to location “Gamma,” Jack panics because he can’t remember the address. He begs for help, explaining he’s only had three weeks of training until she caves and offers a new plan with a more familiar location and some words of encouragement “You’re a Marine. It’s the reason you’re still alive right now. Remember your tradecraft and you’ll be fine.”
After the call disconnects, Jack jumps into action, following the instructions that ultimately lead him to Kevin Costner’s William Harper. Jack is clearly on edge, but Harper insists, “You’ve got to pick somebody to trust, Jack,” after which Jack finally sits down. Harper spots Jack’s hands shaking and notes, “It’s better they’re shaking afterwards than during.” After trying to ease Jack’s anxiety over his first kill with the story of his own, Harper moves on to the meat of the conversation Jack’s discovery.
Jack explains that he came across hidden Russian bank accounts loaded with a massive amount of US currency. That led Jack to the conclusion that someone is trying to collapse the dollar and crash the US economy. Should this happen, Jack suspects that the Russians will recover due to their oil reserves, but the US won’t and that could mean the second Great Depression. Before parting ways, Jack reminds Harper that he signed up for an office job to which Harper proclaims, “You’re not just an analyst anymore. You’re operational now.”
From there the footage fades to black and picks up again with a scene that’s presumably much later in the film. It’s a conversation between Harper, Jack and Jacks fiancée, Cathy (Keira Knightley), during which the group discusses Cathy’s involvement in the next step of their plan. Apparently Kenneth Branagh’s Viktor Cherevin insisted that Cathy attend a certain dinner, but Jack is adamant on keeping her out of the mission. Jack asks Harper to interject in hopes that he’ll side with him, but instead, Harper agrees with Cathy. Harper tries to put things into perspective by explaining that not only is there a chance that none of them will come out of this alive, but the same goes for “a lot of innocent people back home.”
Besides the fact that it’s downright bizarre watching Knightley talk with such a flawless American accent that makes her sound like a completely different person, the most notable element of these last two scenes is the camera work. They’re just your typical two-person and then three-person conversations, but Branagh manages to string together a wide variety of shots that keep the visuals interesting and gives the scenes a little extra moment. You’ve got your standard master and, in the case of the moment between Jack, Cathy and Harper, this striking additional wide shot that’s marginally obscured by a fourth party in the room. Then there are singles focusing on each individual character with slight pans to the side and also static versions of those single shots, but with a slightly different composition. It sounds like a lot, but the pieces are edited together extremely well and to great effect.
While discussing Branagh’s shot selection, Pine explained, “Oftentimes, what you do in the beginning of the day is you start with the master shot, you start with the wide and so as the day progresses you get closer and closer and closer.” However, Branagh prefers to do the exact opposite. Pine confessed, “Oftentimes, that can be kind of intimidating for an actor because oftentimes you’re spending the day trying to figure out what the f*ck you’re doing, but I enjoyed it with this. There was an energy to the scenes and a rawness to the scenes because you didn’t have time to make sense of everything. You had to think on the fly at six in the morning when were shooting and I’ve never worked that way and I enjoyed it very much.”
If you’re unfamiliar with the source material and have grown concerned that Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit is yet another spy movie with impossible action and an indestructible hero, it might be time to reassess. If these scenes are any indication of what’s to come in the full feature, the film’s promotional campaign barely scratches the surface of what’s bound to make Jack Ryan a standout hero his honest vulnerability.
Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit opens nationwide on January 17, 2014.