Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit
Chris Pine is already the fourth actor to take his chances with the role of Jack Ryan, joining previous incarnations Alec Baldwin, Harrison Ford and Ben Affleck. Thriller writer Tom Clancy penned nine novels featuring the CIA operative, and five films based on the character have made it to the screen since The Hunt for Red October in 1984. This film differs from the previous releases in that it is not actually based upon one of the books; rather it’s a prequel in which we learn more about how a young Ryan ended up as a CIA operative.
Ryan is a mild mannered student at the London School of Economics when 9/11 strikes. Inspired to become a Marine, Ryan heads to where the action is in Afghanistan, performs heroically in a chopper crash and nearly becomes a paraplegic. Fortunately he is encouraged back to mobility by a relentless medical student Cathy (Keira Knightley) at his rehab centre, who refuses to let him give up. Meanwhile watching over Ryan’s rehabilitation with interest is CIA representative William Harper (Kevin Costner).
Jump forward a few years and Ryan has been recruited by Harper and is working on Wall St using his only his brilliant economic mind and a computer, to sniff out suspicious multi-million dollar transactions which could be indicators of possible terrorist activity. Following a covert meeting with his CIA contact in an empty movie theatre, Ryan is suddenly propelled into active duty and sent to Russia to uncover an evil plot seemingly brewing over there. Suffice to say it appears that Ryan’s back has healed remarkably well, given his ability to hold his own against the huge hired muscle awaiting him on his arrival in Moscow. Oh the mess they make in the hotel bathroom. Shocking. By the way, if you are ever considering home renovation, the CIA ‘clean-up’ squad is the first group you should contact. They must have some amazing plumbers on call…
The terrorist activity is being orchestrated by a sinister Kenneth Branagh, who plays his megalomaniac Russian villain with relish, not to mention a fabulous accent. The villain only has three weaknesses…beautiful women, vodka and vanity. Cue Knightley’s arrival in Russia as she turns up unexpectedly to check that her now boyfriend Ryan isn’t cheating on her.
In an interview while working on the film, Knightley herself describes Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit as “a piece of popcorn” kind of movie. It certainly is, although given her current size it is unlikely she actually knows what popcorn is. Harsh, yes, but she is thin to the point of distraction. I just wanted to feed her something, although her shark like grin had me worried she would remove any fingers that came too close. Chris Pine did well, although at times his cheesy grin and boyish features seemed at odds with the dire situations he found himself in. Contrastingly Costner was both convincing and likeable in his role, looking better than he has for years, and seeming to have come into his own as an authoritative figure who still ‘has it’ and can hold his own in any number of sticky situations.
Branagh has taken seriously his brief to produce a Hollywood action film, no room for subtle nuances here. The fresh faced young American must foil the evil megalomaniacal Russian. If you want formulaic action with blockbuster style, you will enjoy this. It has explosions, fist fights, car chases and gun battles. In fact some of the car chases through Russia are pretty spectacular. The Kremlin always makes a gorgeous backdrop. But if you want anything deeper…give it a miss.
Rating: M Violence.
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