MOVIE REVIEW – ‘Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit’

Review by J.T. Johnson

DIRECTOR: Kenneth Branagh
CINEMATOGRAPHY: Haris Zambarloukos
WRITERS: Adam Cozad, David Koepp
MUSIC: Patrick Doyle

It was actually quite a shock to me when I found out that Paramount Pictures had decided once again to reboot the Jack Ryan franchise. I was also surprised when they cast Chris Pine as Jack and thought that they were just going to attempt to make the character an American version of James Bond. Thankfully, while the film does involve Jack in more of the action, the movie never truly loses sight of who this character is and what he really does.

Even though they update Jack’s time in the military as being set in Afghanistan, he still gets his back injury from a helicopter crash as he does in the novels’ background of the character. During his time recuperating, he meets medical student Cathy Muller (Keira Knightley) and eventually a man named Thomas Harper (Kevin Costner). Jack soon learns that Thomas works for the C.I.A. and that he wants Jack to come work for him as an analyst in New York in order to track terrorist funding that is being funneled through Wall Street.

While working undercover, Jack discovers that the Russians are setting up the next Great Depression in America. The manipulation of the world economy is being masterminded by Viktor Cherevin (Kenneth Branagh), a Russian that is still loyal to the old guard. Everything he does is simply to restore Mother Russia to its former state.

The first thing that should be said is that this film does not intend to break any new ground in the spy genre. In fact, it is so old school that the Russians are the major threat. Seriously, the Cold War ended over 20 years ago so can Hollywood please catch up and choose a newer villain? Please? No? Okay, moving on.

Still, this is the biggest problem in a competently directed feature. There are several action sequences with Jack, but not only are they well thought out, Jack is not the smooth fighter found in Jason Bourne nor is he as suave as James Bond. As he says several times in the film, he’s just an analyst before Thomas throws him into the field.

I really thought from the casting that Pine would be more of the action star. Fortunately, he gives a decent performance as Jack Ryan and should this film actually be able to restart the series, I would love to see him in the role again. He is good with the action, but he is surprisingly good when he has to jump into analyst mode.

The rest of the cast does a great job as well. Kevin Costner stands out in particular as Thomas. Watching him here and in last year’s “Man of Steel”, I would love to see Costner doing more movies. He is both the wise mentor and the cold face of experience at the same time. You can tell he likes Jack, but that he also knows how to train agents for life-and-death missions.

As far as Jack’s love life goes, Knightley does do a good job as Cathy, Jack’s fiancé and, from the books, his eventual wife. The only problem with her is that her character gets the short end of the stick. While she does unwillingly get involved in the mission at hand for awhile, she is really nothing more than the cardboard cutout girlfriend of Jack Ryan.

Each year, January usually just supplies me with lesser films. There is rarely ever an exception to this rule. I am truly grateful that for my first film review of 2014, “Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit” is not a bad start to the year.

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