Review: Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit (2014)

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Tom Clancy’s CIA operative Jack Ryan returns to the silver screen for the fifth time since The Hunt for Red October in 1990, this time Ryan being played by Star Trek actor Chris Pine. In the role previously acted by Alec Baldwin, Harrison Ford and Ben Affleck, Pine stars in a new story of the action hero, going from London to Moscow, with Kenneth Branagh directing and playing the Russian villain Viktor Cherevin. In this new reboot of the series, Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit aims to do what the James Bond movies have done in recent years; tried to make an espionage drama relevant in the 21st century. However the film falls back on clichés including evil Russians, American heroes and fast paced music score to still appeal to the older audiences who know and are familiar with the conventions of old fashioned spy movies.

Shadow Recruit follows Jack Ryan (Pine) after his military service, where he is now recruited into the CIA by mysterious handler Thomas Harper (Kevin Costner). Just a desk analyst, Ryan is sent to Moscow to look into some pay offs for terrorist activities. Here, he finds himself in danger as he begins to uncover the dirty dealings with Russian businessman Viktor Cherevin (Branagh). At the same time, his girlfriend Cathy (Keira Knightley) comes to meet him in Moscow, putting herself in danger as Ryan tries to save them both and get to the bottom of the espionage ring.

It’s unclear what the creators of the Jack Ryan series were trying to do with this reboot, taking into account that the CIA spy hasn’t graced our screens in more than ten years and is the first film that isn’t based on a Clancy novel. There are old school ideas that mix with the contemporary action and technology that we’ve seen in Bond and Bourne movies, with the movie still being sleek and interesting, despite the ridiculous plot.

Chris Pine isn’t the hero that we want and found in Baldwin and Ford but is the leading man anybody could be. Knightley is good in the role of Cathy, funny and serious in perfect moderation. She plays off the mediocre Pine and develops her own sense of character and is sure to be remembered for this film. Branagh is the stereotypical Russian villian Cherevin, overdramatic and blood thirsty, being the most interesting part of the movie.

Unfortunately the film’s action is a little on the lower side, basically being car chases and breaking ins. There are decent action scenes and suspenseful moments but very few in between that would push this political thriller into an excellent spy film that it has the potential to be. Instead of the director and screenwriter focusing on the elements of Jack Ryan that differentiate him from other spies, his fast knowledge and analyst intellect, they try too much to make the film any run of the mill spy film. Let’s hope when they resurrect Ryan again, he becomes the hero he has the potential to be.

2.5/5 Stars

Originally published on CelebrityOZ, January 19, 2014. 

Watch the trailer for Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit below:

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