Dir: Kenneth Branagh
Cast: Chris Pine, Keira Knightley, Kevin Costner, and Kenneth Branagh
Synopsis: Jack Ryan, as a young covert CIA analyst, uncovers a Russian plot to crash the U.S. economy with a terrorist attack
*Reviewer Note: This will be a non-spoiler as always.*
Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit is a franchise reboot of famous Tom Clancy character. Although this is not based on one of Clancy’s original stories the movie serves as an origin story. It shows how the young analyst came to work for the CIA. A college student on 9/11, Ryan (Pine) joins the Marines, survives combat in Afghanistan, and is later recruited to work for the Agency as an analyst by his mentor William Harper (Costner). Ten years later, Jack and the CIA discover a Russian plot – created by Viktor Cherevin (Kenneth Branagh, who also directed) — to ruin the world economy.
Unlike many spy genre movies, Jack Ryan isn’t a super agent that knows martial arts and is an expert with guns. Ryan’s skill is that he’s super smart, hence being an analyst, but when push comes to shove he’ll go into the action. That doesn’t mean there aren’t good action sequences. Ryan’s bathroom brawl with someone trying to kill him shows Ryan won’t go down without a fight.
However, the movie isn’t a full action movie. The movie is a thriller and a race against time with Ryan trying to figure out what Branagh’s Cherevin is trying to do, even if that means having dinner with the man and trying to hack into his work system, and dealing with his girlfriend played by Knightley.
Pine does just fine playing Jack Ryan. Of course he is following Alec Baldwin, Harrison Ford (who played Ryan twice), and Ben Affleck. The movie ultimately falls on Pine’s shoulders and he carries it just fine. Pine has a charismatic, intelligent presence on screen and gives off a everyman quality.
Kevin Costner, who plays Ryan’s mentor Thomas Harper, does the best he can with his role. He brings a world-weariness and shadowy edge that leaves you wondering if maybe he was like Ryan when he was younger but there also a hint of mystery behind him at times. Branagh plays his Russian villain (which an interesting Russian accent) with some depth so it doesn’t lead to a generic Russian bad guy.
Arguably, the less effective scenes are between Jack and his doctor-girlfriend Cathy (Knightley), who inevitably ends up a damsel in distress at one point. And as much as I know it might be hard for actors to put on a different accent Knightley looks like she struggles a lot with her American accent. Yes, it’s nitpicky but I think it would have been better to make her British and not worry about that.
All in all, there is much fun to be had in Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit. Although it doesn’t really add anything new to the spy genre, it doesn’t mean it can’t be good.
Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit
4 out of 5