Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit
Pine Reboots Another Action Hero

Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit is the second attempt to reboot the Jack Ryan franchise, based on characters created by spy novelist Tom Clancy.  The first was The Sum of All Fears, starring Ben Affleck, which was released fourteen years ago.  Obviously, that one failed to reinvigorate the franchise and Shadow Recruit hopes to succeed where Sum failed.

The movie introduces us to the character of Jack Ryan long before he was recruited into the CIA.  Working on his Economics PhD in 2001 London, Jack is shocked to learn that his home country was attacked by terrorists on September 11th.  He immediately enlists in the Marines and ascends to the rank of Lieutenant.  While on a mission in Afghanistan, Ryan’s helicopter is shot down leaving him seriously injured.  While learning to walk again through physical therapy, Ryan is approached by a man named Thomas Harper.  Harper breaks protocol and tells Ryan that he is in the CIA.  He convinces Ryan that while his career in the armed forces may be done, there are other ways in which he can serve his country.  And just like that, CIA Analyst Jack Ryan is born.

Chris Pine in Jack Ryan: Shadow RecruitTen years later, while working undercover at a major Manhattan bank, Ryan discovers some anomalies with some Russian accounts.  He is sent to Moscow to investigate and there he meets up with Viktor Cherevin, a man the movie makes absolutely no effort to disguise as anything other than the villain.  Suspecting another terrorist attack may be in the works, Ryan suddenly goes from the bored analyst who stared at computer screens all day to a sort of American James Bond.

Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit is also the second attempt at a reboot for Chris Pine.  Having already found success as the new Captain Kirk in the Star Trek franchise, Pine now becomes the fourth actor to play the character of Jack Ryan.  He follows in the footsteps of Alec Baldwin, Harrison Ford (who played Ryan twice), and the aforementioned Ben Affleck.  In terms of his character and performance in the role, the closest comparison for Pine is Ford, an actor Pine was compared to when the first Star Trek movie came out a few years ago.  Pine carries the character well, even as the film itself starts to get a little out of control in its final act.

The movie opens like an origin story, showing audiences the backstory that was previously just discussed in 1990’s The Hunt for Red October.  It then meanders a bit for the rest of the opening act, constantly changing locations and fast-forwarding through time until the story catches up with modern day.

The movie does start to hit its stride in the midsection and proves to be a quite entertaining action flick.  There is a brutal hand-to-hand combat scene to get the action started, followed by a suspenseful beat-the-clock spy scene that is thrilling, even if it does feel a bit like Mission Impossible-lite.  Car chases and more hand-to-hand combat dominate the final act of the film, where the pacing gets amped up to levels that almost feel forced.

Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit is directed by Kenneth Branagh, a director who just a few years ago you would have never expected to direct a movie like this. Following Thor, this is the Shakespearean actor/director’s second foray into the action genre.  This movie does not feel quite as polished as Thor, but Branagh is quite successful in making another entertaining action thriller.  Branagh also plays the lead villain, a sadist who knows more about the dangers of biting into a light bulb than any normal person should.

Whether or not Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit will succeed in rebooting the Ryan franchise remains to be seen, but the movie definitely proves to be more entertaining than your average January release.

Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit is rated PG-13 for “sequences of violence and intense action, and brief strong language.”  The action is intense, but there is nothing too terribly graphic.  As content goes, it’s a pretty typical PG-13 action thriller.

Courtesy of a local publicist, Jeff attended a promotional screening of Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit.