Sunday, January 19

Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit Review

Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit
Dir: Kenneth Branagh
Starring: Chris Pine, Kevin Costner, Kenneth Branagh, and Keira Knightley

Alec Baldwin, Harrison Ford, Ben Affleck, and now Chris Pine have each portrayed Tom Clancy’s C.I.A. analyst, and all around defender of America, Jack Ryan.  “Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit” presents an origin story for the title character who is introduced as a newly acquired operative. Kenneth Branagh capably directs the cloak and dagger tale with action flare though unfortunately the narrative doesn’t resemble more than a moderate rendition of the typical spy standard.

The story begins with Jack Ryan (Chris Pine) as a college student at an economics school in London on the day of the attacks on September 11th.  Sometime later Ryan, now in the military, is in Afghanistan on a helicopter that gets shot down leaving him in a rehab facility recovering from his injuries. Here Ryan meets a naval officer named Thomas Harper (Kevin Costner) who enlists Ryan as an analyst with the Central Intelligence Agency.

Director and actor Kenneth Branagh portrays the familiar Russian bad guy in the film, thick villainous accent and all. However, Branagh’s skill here is emphasized in his direction of the film, taking what could have been a generic offering and making it more entertaining than it otherwise might have been. The initial setup is quick, moving Ryan from a student to an undercover compliance manager looking for terrorist activity on Wall Street. Ryan uncovers some encrypted files hiding large financial transactions in Moscow and is jetted to investigate. This is where the action levels up and Branagh utilizes the cat and mouse tactics to heighten the suspenseful moments. Still, it’s hard to overlook some of the narrative discrepancies, particularly those pertaining to the composition of Ryan’s abilities and the strategies of the company he works for. Branagh never over brandishes these flaws but instead moves steadily forward on familiar ground.

Pine is good as Ryan; his naturally charming sensibilities make his character likable from the beginning. While Branagh is a capable actor, his character here isn’t given much to do except sneer and make threats. Costner’s supporting character offers a nice “passing of the torch” quality. Costner, who has played all types of American hero’s in his storied career, is good in the role of mentor for Ryan.

Branagh, avoiding many of the flaws in the narrative, crafts an entertainingly customary action film. Clancy’s inventive style and intellectual narrative is only subtly touched upon in the script (not based on a Clancy novel) though the pacing that Branagh utilizes masks the errors however. The quality of the actors in the film helps as well, especially Pine and Costner who have good chemistry. While the film is entertaining it’s not necessarily memorable however viewers looking for a straightforward action film will find satisfying results in “Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit”.

Monte’s Rating

3.00 out of 5.00

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