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Movie Review - 'Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit' reinventing a lost franchise

'Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit'


All Jacked up - After years of development and setbacks, the Jack Ryan film franchise is officially reborn thanks to collaborative effort from everyone involved. That’s good news for those Tom Clancy fans, who thought they had seen the last of their favorite literary character on the big screen back in 2002 with “The Sum of All Fears.” But, Ryan is back and better than ever in a completely new reboot dubbed “Shadow Recruit” that departs from the previous installments.

Chris Pine in 'Jack Ryan:Shadow Recruit'
Paramount Pictures

What’s it about? While the story is based on the novels of Tom Clancy, It’s an original concept that follows former Marine Second Lieutenant Jack Ryan and his path into the CIA. It all pretty much starts at Walter Reed Medical Center where Ryan was recovering from injuries sustained in a helicopter crash over in Afghanistan. While there, he becomes close to his Dr. Muller (Keira Knightley) who he later marries, but also is met by Thomas Harper (Kevin Costner). Impressed with Ryan’s ability to retain information and recognize usual patterns, Harper recruits Ryan into the CIA to essentially become an undercover agent. During his very first assignment researching financial transactions on Wall Street, Ryan uncovered some strange activity from a Russian company and immediately travels to Moscow for a visit. After arriving and nearly being killed, he meets with Harper who tells him, “You’re not just an analyst anymore, you’re operational now.” And the next thing Ryan knew, he was attempting to stop a terrorist attack by the Russians whose ‘end game’ was to tarnish the U.S. dollar and create another depression resulting in a conclusion that will have you on the edge of your seat.

Who was in it? Sadly, the cast in this one is not all that predominant. For some films, that’s a good thing, as it might take away from the story. But, others might need that big name or performance to take it over the top. And while I can appreciate why producers wanted a young actor like Chris Pine to star in this reboot, he might have been the wrong choice for this role. I understand what he has done in a short time with the “Star Trek” series, but l think it was wishful thinking that he would carry that same ‘mojo’ over to a series like this one. Pine just didn’t have enough personality in this film as Ryan and it showed with pretty much anyone he came into contact with, including Keira Knightley playing his wife. Possibly the only actor that was remotely natural with was Kevin Costner, who tends to make everyone around him comfortable. So, that almost doesn’t count, leaving me to wonder how Pine got here. That said, he didn’t ruin the film thanks to the direction of Kenneth Branagh, who also starred in it as Viktor Cherevin. Having acted since the early eighties, the Northern Ireland product knows how it works in front of the camera, so sitting behind it certainly gives him somewhat of an edge in a film lacking star power.

Familiar territory – Its’ anyone’s guess why it took nearly fourteen years to see another film based on Ton Clancy’s infamous Jack Ryan. Sure, some of it can be blamed on the so-called ‘development hell that many projects fall victim to, but at some point, you just have to forget about the past. So, if nothing else, I’m glad Paramount and Skydance Productions realized that, clearly deciding to start over with a character such as Ryan. And by choosing Kenneth Branagh to direct, they were able to sell this in a way that would intrigue people enough to take a chance on it. Because Tom Clancy knew what he had created with Ryan; I just wish he could have been around to see the final product of this latest reboot (Clancy died Oct. 1,, 2013). Overall, it really wasn’t that bad and truthfully a decent start to an eventual series that a younger generation might be able to latch onto like so many us have with the “Mission Impossible” series. Moving forward was a must and my hope is Chris Pine will grow into this character and ‘own it’ like Harrison Ford did in “Patriot Games” and “Clear and Present Danger.” If that happens, we might get a series that you want to own on DVD someday and one Tom Clancy himself would have been proud of.

Bottom Line – “Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit” may not be on everyone’s list of must-see films, but you can do a lot worse than what Kenneth Branagh created here. And that’s really all that I had hoped for in going to watch it, because all too often we set ourselves up for failure with unfair expectations and end up not enjoying the film for what it was.


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