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Review - Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit

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The ever-popular Tom Clancy character Jack Ryan is back. The highly-skilled, even more intelligent CIA member appears in his fifth film, with his fourth actor, but this time it’s, well, more different; he’s a rookie. Where past iterations of the Clancy creation have found Jack Ryan at the top of his game, the new film Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit portrays the man at the dawn of his career. It’s the old origin story; not just for superheroes or sci-fi anymore.

Ryan is played this time by Chris Pine, he of the new Captain Kirk. We begin with Ryan coming to terms with a series of tragedies, spurned to join the military after the terror attacks of 9/11. A promising career hits a significant hurdle, yet Ryan catches the eye of Thomas Harper (Kevin Costner), a high-ranking figure in the CIA who sees something special in the young man. Assigned to be an undercover employee of a major Wall Street financial institution, Ryan uncovers a series of odd accounts, which spirals into being sent to Russia, a valuable economic partner of his company.

Once in Russia, the proverbial wackiness ensues; hitmen, secret meeting places and angry, old Russian men, bitter about losing the Cold War to the Yanks. The part of angry, old Russian man is played here by Kenneth Branagh, who also directs the movie. Branagh’s character plots a double takedown of the United States, veering in via physical and financial terrorism.

Oh, and Keira Knightley pops in, complete with an alright American accent. She portrays Ryan’s love interest, a situation that struggles amidst secrets and lies.

The movie is alright. Other than a finale that teeters into a bit of silliness, the majority of Shadow Recruit bobs along nicely. The cast is game, with Pine doing the in-over-his-head routine he perfected in Star Trek. The charm is turned down a notch, and while he isn’t a particularly exciting choice for the titular fellow, he’s more than suitable. Costner is a nice addition, using his innate goodness-persona well, making some occasionally devious decisions warm rather than prickly. Branagh enjoys a bit of scenery chewing, though not nearly the level one might think of a bitter, rich and dangerous Russian. Hell, he barely even yells.

What the movie doesn’t really do is standout. After a shaky opening twenty minutes, Sequences work well, even if few of them are memorable. It's intriguing to watch a heroic action figure that lacks all skills, failing to pull off the relentless Cruise-ian run, making him a fallible treat. Yet, significant chunks of the movie are mediocre, which is not to be confused with bad. The villain's plot is the kind of thing one could find in any episode of any spy show ever. The deeper entrails of it are dull; again not bad, just kind of there. When it all wraps-up, it's a movie ripe for a matinee or rental. Take that how you will.

Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit opens wide all across Seattle tomorrow.

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