Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit


Chris Pine as Jack Ryan
Keira Knightley as Cathy Muller
Kevin Costner as Thomas Harper
Kenneth Branagh as Viktor Cherevin
Lenn Kudrjawizki as Constantin
Alec Utgoff as Aleksandr Borovsky
Peter Andersson as Dimitri Lemkov
Elena Velikanova as Katya
Nonso Anozie as Embee Deng
Seth Ayott as Teddy Hefferman
Colm Feore as Rob Behringer
Gemma Chan as Amy Chang

Directed by Kenneth Branagh

Chris Pine is a solid successor to the Jack Ryan character, but “Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit” is overall a decent but unmemorable thriller.

This film is based on characters created by Tom Clancy. It is not based on one of his novels.

Jack Ryan is a promising young economics student when the September 11th terrorist attacks hit in 2001. Eager to play a more significant role in the war on terror, he joins the Marines and fights in Afghanistan. But after a tragic helicopter attack, Ryan is wounded and barely able to walk. Fortunately the silver lining is that he meets Dr. Cathy Muller in rehab and falls in love with her.

Jack also meets Thomas Harper from the CIA. Ryan’s ability to spot trends amid seemingly insignificant data, plus his background in economics, catch Harper’s eye. He secretly recruits Jack to become a CIA analyst on Wall Street. There he is expected to look for trends in money being moved that could indicate terrorist activities. Little do they realize that Jack and Cathy will be pulled into efforts to stop the biggest terrorist attack on the US since 2001.

“Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit” is rated PG-13 for sequences of violence and intense action, and brief strong language.

What Worked:
The character of Jack Ryan gets a reboot in this latest incarnation of Tom Clancy’s character. “Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit” is not based on one of Clancy’s novels, but it still manages to capture the spirit of the character and his stories. He’s an everyman who is good at spotting what other people miss amid seemingly insignificant information. And ultimately he ends up on the front line of the battle to save the U.S. despite his constant catch phrase, “But I’m just an analyst!”

Chris Pine is the fourth actor to portray the character following Alec Baldwin, Harrison Ford, and Ben Affleck. While Baldwin and Ford remain my favorites, Pine does an admirable job with Ryan. He handles the action well while still making lines where he spouts financial data convincing. You believe him as either an ex-Marine or a doctor of economics. Jack Ryan will always be more interesting as a Cold Warrior battling the Russians in the ’80s, so that makes him battling Russian terrorists in present day a little less exciting, but that change comes with the reboot and is expected.

Pine is supported by Keira Knightley as Cathy Muller. I went into this movie knowing nothing about it, so when Knightley appeared on the screen with an American accent, I almost didn’t realize that it was her. She handles the role well and manages to be likable while still being the stereotypical suspicious fiancĂ©e. Luckily that part of the plot is dropped relatively quickly and Cathy actually joins Jack on his adventure. It’s nice to see an essentially married couple working in an effective partnership on screen rather than her just being a passing love interest to be replaced in the next film. Kevin Costner also joins the supporting cast as Thomas Harper. He’s a great mentor for Ryan and a reflection of what Jack might actually become one day. Kenneth Branagh pulls double duty by both directing the film and co-starring as the villain Viktor Cherevin. He’s generally pretty menacing and they do make an effort to humanize him as he talks about fighting in Afghanistan, his family, and other personal topics, but by the end his accent becomes somewhat hokey and he does lose some of the credit he built up in the rest of the film.

“Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit” has three major action scenes in it and they are all well executed. There is a tense hand to hand fight that reaffirms Ryan’s Marine background. Then there is a nail-biting infiltration of an office building. One of the hardest things to do in film is make a character frantically typing on a keyboard exciting, but they manage to do it. Then the big finale is a bit reminiscent of “Die Hard with a Vengeance,” but it’s forgivable.

What Didn’t Work:
For a reboot of the Jack Ryan series, this still feels a lot like yet another “Bourne Identity” copy. The movie has a few trademarks of the Tom Clancy character, but there’s still something lacking that sets it apart and makes it memorable.

“Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit” is also kind of humorless. Tom Clancy’s novels weren’t exactly known for their great moments of levity, but both Harrison Ford and Alec Baldwin were given moments to make the audience laugh and warm up to Ryan. Pine isn’t really given that opportunity yet that’s one of the things that make him so appealing as a leading man. He isn’t really allowed to do what he does best and the film suffers because of it.

There were other significant issues with the script as well including big lapses in logic. For example, Jack Ryan kills a man in his hotel room. It’s obvious he’s in trouble. It’s obvious there is a plot to kill him. It’s obvious that the assassin has more buddies waiting for him to return. So what does Ryan and the CIA do? They have him return to the hotel room as if nothing ever happened and continue on with his mission. It doesn’t seem terribly realistic. There are other issues like this that you simply have to ignore and let go.

A number of the plot points are also telegraphed way in advance. As soon as Jack walks into a high security office building with glass walls, you know at some point in the next 20 minutes that he’s going to have to break in and steal something off of a computer. And as the camera lingers in a hotel hallway, you quickly get the sense that someone in the hallway is about to try and kill Ryan. It felt just a little too obvious.

The Bottom Line:
“Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit” is not a bad reboot of the Jack Ryan series, but it’s not a particularly memorable one either. I don’t think audiences will be clamoring for a sequel. Still, it’s a thriller worth checking out at least on Blu-ray later.