Review: Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit
It's been 12 years since the character of Jack Ryan has graced the silver screen, and following in the footsteps of Sean Connery, Harrison Ford, and Ben Affleck is Chris Pine, known as the star of the revamped Star Trek franchise. The Jack Ryan films have all seen great box office success no matter the critical reception (don't worry about The Sum of All Fears, Ben, you moved on to bigger and better things) so now seems like the perfect time to venture back into the world made popular by author Tom Clancy. Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit was directed by Kenneth Branagh, who is taking on a film with a bit of a larger scale than what he's used to working with.
Young Jack Ryan is a masters student in London in 2001. One fateful day in September turned out to be one of the worst days in United States history (try and guess which one) After the New York attacks, Jack enlists in the Marines. Too smart for his own good, he's often questioned why he joined such a dangerous branch given his immense intelligence and on another fateful day, he never gets to answer that question. A helicopter crash nearly paralyzes him and forces him into retirement from the military. One day though, a stranger (Kevin Costner) comes calling with an opportunity for Jack to continue to serve his country, as a financial analyst for companies on Wall Street that are suspected of funding terrorist groups. Naturally, Jack discovers a plot with the potential to send the United States into an economic meltdown we would likely never recover from.
Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit borrows from plenty of other action/spy films. There are elements of Jason Bourne, James Bond, Mission Impossible, and many other film franchises throughout this movie. Oddly enough, since this is a reboot of sorts of the Jack Ryan character, it doesn't appear to borrow from previous Jack Ryan movies.
Branagh has proven to be a great director, fully capable of a movie like this, and he does well with what he's given. The problems lie in the inept writing, especially of the many side plots that are ever-present. Jack's girlfriend, played by Keira Knightley, crashes a mission in Moscow because she suspects Jack is having an affair, and then after being forced to come clean to her that he is a spy, puts her in a position where she must play a vital role in a covert op distracting the dangerous Bond villain played by Branagh himself.
Where Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit excels is in a few of the action scenes. They are appropriately tense, filmed well for the most part, and the cinematography is just beautiful. All of that high praise aside though, this is a generic action/spy film, and if it didn't have the name Jack Ryan in front of it, would be just like any other forgettable action you've seen a dozen times already. Having seen it in January, by the time the Blu-ray becomes available you'll no doubt be saying to yourself, "Oh yeah, I did see that movie this year. What did I think of it?" When I say that, kindly remind me that I reviewed it here at Slackerwood for your reading pleasure.