Review: Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit

jack ryan shadow recruit

Directed by veteran filmmaker, Kenneth Branagh, Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit, attempts to reignite the once popular international intrigue series. Often dubbed as America’s James Bond, the Jack Ryan series is based on the massive literary catalog of the late author Tom Clancy. The movie takes a look of Jack Ryan’s first mission and introduction into the C.I.A.

Initially a young student at London’s School of Economics, Jack Ryan (Chris Pine) finds himself face to face with the horrors of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attack on New York City. He immediately leaves his cerebral bubble and joins The Marines and is deployed to Afghanistan. During a helicopter attack, Ryan is brutally injured and spends months recovering. During his stint at Walter Reed Medical Center he meets Cathy Muller (Keira Knightley), a young medical student who coaches Jack through his physical therapy. Their connection becomes rather obvious and fast forward to them being engaged. During this time Ryan is approached by the mysterious William Harper (Kevin Costner). Harper instructs Ryan to go back to school and finish his doctorate and join the C.I.A.

In present time, Ryan and Harper are tracking illegal foreign money that might be used for terrorist means and they are lead to Moscow in pursuit of all around Russian bad guy businessman stereotype Viktor Cherevin (Kenneth Branagh). Cherevin is depicted as a shrewd man with a fairly large yet obvious secret. His ultimate plans are eventually revealed over the course of several not so subtle bits of dialogue. Cherevin would remind most viewers of the poorly written one-dimensional early James Bond villains. One goal, one reason, and no depth is the mark of these characters and so it is true for Cherevin.

The movie overall had some decent action sequences and the stakes seemed put to a reasonable level for this type of movie. However, the movie is so predictable that you can practically watch the beats coming a mile away. The hero has little to no depth and the villain was even worse. There was no emotional involvement for me. Ryan and Muller relationship is at the heart of the film, but fails to resonate with any serious power. Highly unrealistic reactions by the main cast to certain rather obvious situations made the film feel like people pantomiming actual human emotions...poorly. Chris Pine, Keira Knightly, and Kevin Costner all did a serviceable job. Given a better script and more to take on I think they could have delivered up to their normal calibers. Kenneth Branagh was also just fine. However, due to him also being the director I can’t let him slide as easily. He never seemed to be able to reign himself in. He was less character and more caricature. At the end of the day, Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit is a spy movie by the numbers. Don’t expect new ground to be broken here; after all, this is still a January release.

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