JACK RYAN: SHADOW RECRUIT
By Gary Murray
Starring Chris Pine, Kevin Costner and Keira Knightley
Written by Adam Cozad and David Koepp
Directed by Kenneth Branagh
Running time 105 min
MPAA Rating PG-13
Selig Film Rating Cable
The character of Jack Ryan has been around for a few decades. The first film was The Hunt for Red October (1990) and starred Alec Baldwin as the CIA operative. Over the years, the role has been taken by Ben Affleck and Harrison Ford. Chris Pine, our new beloved Captain Kirk, has branched out to take on the latest reboot of the Jack Ryan franchise with Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit.
This is an origin story. The film starts in England and Jack Ryan (Chris Pine) is a student studying abroad. Then 9/11 happens. The next scene is of Jack and some other soldiers on a military transport helicopter in the Middle East. Jack has joined the fight.
A missile hits the vehicle and the next scene is of Jack being rushed into an emergency operating table. His back is shattered and a long road is ahead.
During his rehabilitation, he meets Cathy (Keira Knightley). She is a medical intern on her way to becoming a doctor. He is attracted to her and she is attracted to him. She tells him that when he can walk and run on his own, she will go out with him.
As Jack trains, Thomas Harper (Kevin Costner) enters his life. Harper sees some potential in the young man and wants the Jack to go back to school to finish his PhD. Harper works with the CIA and sees Jack Ryan as a Wall Street mole, finding terrorists within the halls of finance. He agrees to take the fight against the bad guys by being a part of the system.
One day, Jack notices a series of strange transactions happening in Russia, all linked to businesses owned by Viktor Cherevin (Kenneth Branagh). Ryan must travel to the old USSR and find out what exactly is going on behind the former Iron Curtain. Added to this is that Cathy decides she wants to come along. She is beginning to suspect something in the life of Jack Ryan, like another woman.
The story is of how Jack Ryan goes from CIA analysis to CIA spook. Eventually he must penetrate the offices of Viktor and get the information about a looming terror attack. It is a cat and mouse game of bullets and bravery as Jack is thrown into a world that he is not truly ready for. The film builds with crosses and counter crosses on both sides of the world. The film is also quite a bit of a cinematic mess.
The failure with this film falls directly in the lap of director Kenneth Branagh. He knows how to direct performers and get the best performances from his actors, but he is not an action director. The action sequences chunk along with a shaky camera and a shaky camera does not translate into thrilling scenes. Time and time again, Branagh misuses all the cool toys in his toy box while trying to make a thrilling action adventure. The actor/director should stick to costume dramas. There is no sense of urgency within the world of Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit.
The other major problem with Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit is in the chemistry of the two leads. While Chris Pine and Keira Knightley are both beautiful people, the just don’t mesh as a romantic couple. Both have done much better work that in this motion picture. There is no spark between the two of them, no belief that they are attracted to one another, much less a pair to be married. It is a miscast almost from the first moment they are on screen together.
Kevin Costner comes across much better in Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit. His Harper is a cold-blooded killer for all the right reasons. He understands that the world is a very dangerous place and that guardians like him are the last defense against a system of terrorism.
Jack Ryan is a typical January release. It is something that is a left over from the Christmas season that hopes to pick up the cinematic crumbs of box office gold. It is more of a diversion that a great motion picture, something to catch on a rainy day but not something to rush out to see.