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Cold War redo: Movie review of ‘Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit’

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With a sixty million production budget and a worldwide gross of $134,000,000, it is uncertain if this Jack Ryan reboot will live beyond its first installment. One might argue that the topic is timely, that the movie was fun, but darn it is forgettable.

Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit stars Chris Pine who seems eager to line up as many movie franchises as he can. His Ryan is a amiable enough guy who like the Jack Ryan’s of the past is just an analyst who seems to always be stumbling into international plots where he has to draw out his inner tough guy to fight the enemies of the great American way. Kierra Knightly is Ryan’s doctor girlfriend who we all know will eventually become his wife. Kevin Costner, who seems to be making a major effort to regain his lost A status by starring in numerous high profile secondary roles, is cast as Ryan’s handler. Kenneth Branagh both stars and directs the movie.

Unlike other Ryan projects of the past, Shadow Recruit is not based on a Tom Clancy novel although the film is dedicated to him (he died in October of last year). It is a rebooting in every sense in that it resets the Ryan timeline to when he was attending the London School of Economics when 9/11 happened. Flash forward a few years and he is out of the econ game and flying missions over Afghanistan until he is injured and ends up in a recovery ward with Knightly as his physical therapist. It is there that he meets Thomas Harper (Costner) who recruits him for CIA shadow work at a Wall Street investment firm. Years later he is living with Knightly who constantly rebuffs his offer of marriage (ergo he can’t tell her he really works for the CIA because only spouses can be privy to undercover roles). He discovers a discrepancy involving a Russian investment and things get interesting from there.

Shadow Recruit is an adequate movie. The stars are likeable, even Costner (whose work I used to avoid like the plague) the plot is as plausible as a work of thrill fiction can be, but in the end it isn’t terribly memorable. It definitely doesn’t reflect the heyday of the Ryan films which starred Harrison Ford cavorting around the globe doing good deeds and stopping evil doers. Pine makes a fine Ryan and Knightly is given a little more to do than past Mrs. Ryans. The only distraction to the storyline was when Costner’s Harper brings a dog to an impromptu meeting – a dog that he just snatched from unknown yard to fit in as a dude walking his dog in a Moscow park at night cover. It is played for laughs because he indicates that he is going to abandon the animal. This is the sort of thing that makes animal lovers cringe and is a mark of poor timing since reports of Sochi Olympic officials shooting dogs was making the news when Shadow Recruit was still in the theaters.

I recommend Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit when it comes out of DVD on June 10th (which seems like a long stretch considering the movie was in American cinemas in January). I think the movie will play well on the small screen and may even build up more or a fan base.

Happy viewing!