Movie Review: Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit

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A young analyst who has been recruited by the CIA uncovers a Russian economic conspiracy and fights against the clock to prevent a terrorist attack.

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Kenneth Branagh, 2014

Jack Ryan (Chris Pine) is studying in London when the Twin Towers are attacked; as a result, he joins the marines, suffering a broken back when the helicopter he’s riding in is shot out of the sky. During his recovery he falls in love with Dr. Cathy Muller (Keira Knightley) and is recruited by CIA agent Tom Harper (Kevin Costner). A few years later, he discovers a bunch of hidden accounts from a major Russian corporation headed by the violent Viktor Cherevin (Kenneth Branagh). He heads to Moscow to investigate the accounts and discovers more than he bargained for: a plot to destroy the American economy, an upcoming terrorist attack, and an attempt on his life, not to mention the fact that his fiancee has come to Moscow to surprise him. He, Cathy and Harper become embroiled in the attempt to find out what Cherevin’s up to and take down a terrorist in the United States before the attack can take place.

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This is an enjoyable and well put-together action movie with a few flaws, the biggest being that it doesn’t offer anything new or original in the action thriller genre. It’s by-the-number writing, elevated by the fact that a) the plot is easy to follow despite some elements that may, in other hands, be confusing; b) the direction is sleek and exciting; c) Chris Pine. Chris Pine and his incredible blue eyes and his ability to take the archetypal action hero and give him depth and humour. Jack is no cocky Kirk, but he is intelligent and fun in his newness. The scenes where Jack is trying to adjust to life as a CIA agent are the most interesting, but there’s also a very effective shot early in the film of Jack, beaten and bloody after his accident, only one blue eye shining through the blood. The opening is terrific, and the film keeps up the pacing pretty well, although there’s an awfully convenient plane ride that makes everything a little too easy at the end of the second act. There’s also a hell of an explosion that’s used particularly well.

There’s also the vanity casting of Kenneth Branagh as main baddie Cherevin. He’s just not believable in the role – even when his actions and words are scary, he doesn’t project the right aura of malice. Kevin Costner sleepwalks through the role of Ryan’s mentor; I half expected him to be evil just so he’d have something to do. Of the supporting cast, Keira Knightley fares the best. Her American accent is passable, if unnecessary, and she has a serious case of British mouth (you know when British people speak with American accents but you can just SEE that they aren’t American by how they talk?), but she’s utterly convincing as Ryan’s plucky girlfriend. She’s given more to do than the traditional action movie love interest, if only a little. The choice to stick with a Russian enemy is strange – we’re years past the cold war, so a Russian terrorist attack just doesn’t convince in a lot of ways. Still, it’s a thoroughly enjoyable action flick, even if it doesn’t break new ground, and it’ll be interesting to see what Jack Ryan gets up to in the next movie from the rebooted franchise. (I’ll watch it. I’ll watch Chris Pine in pretty much anything.)

Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit on IMDb

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