Is it possible to be able to have a decent job in your ideal field and help your country out at the same time? What happens when your secrets start to spill into your daily life? Can you face the truth or hide behind when it's too late to confess everything? That's part of the premise behind the new movie "Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit," which followed one man's quest for a dangerous truth that could get him killed. The results may be familiar, but the film's near flawless execution that made it worth watching on the big screen.
"Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit" followed how Jack Ryan (Chris Pine) began his tenure at the CIA and how he was pulled into a major mission that could get him killed. He was pulled into working full time with the governor after he was brutally injured during the war. Ryan was leading a double life that allowed him to use his college degree anytime they wanted him to. He was working at a Wall Street firm as his cover, but he was secretly gathering information to give to his secretive, but helpful, handler Harper (Kevin Costner). Sadly, Jack couldn't tell anyone about his secret life as a spy, which caused some friction with his loved ones. Jack's latest assignment involved a powerful Russian businessman named Viktor Cherevin (Kenneth Branagh) who was part of a complex terrorist attack that could start major chaos if it went off without a hitch. Cherevin was a ruthless businessman who loved being steps ahead above everyone else. Cherevin also had a fondness for single women, which also led to Ryan following through with a dangerous mission that involved his confused fiancee Dr. Cathy Muller (Keira Knightley) being used as bait for Cherevin to flirt with for a while as Jack broke into a secure office to gather evidence. After a near close call with Cherevin, Jack and Cathy were forced to find out when they would be able to be happy; even if danger seemed to be close at hand. It also didn't help that Jack was forced to become an active agent because he was the only one with the ability to stop Cherevin's destructive plans of financial domination after a terrorist attack. Will Jack be able to stop Cherevin's plans or will he die trying in the process?
In terms of questions, the movie posed a few big ones that seemed to resolve themselves by the end of the movie a little too neatly. The biggest one involved whether it was possible for a fictional government operative to find happiness outside of his profession and still catch terrorists before they go too far. Sure, there were times that the movie suffered from slight plot strain as the plot continued to bounce back and forth between Ryan's professional and personal lives. Luckily, the movie fixed that by throwing Cathy into the thick of the action and the danger that went along with it. For the most part, the movie's breezy plot went by rather quickly as a way to show viewers that danger was never on a fixed schedule. The only problem with the film's somewhat speedy pace was that sometimes things got left out in the process, which included stronger character development for Knightley's Cathy. In the movie, she was merely portrayed as the devoted fiancee who didn't have much of a storyline of her own. Hopefully, that will be resolved if a possible sequel is ever greenlit based on the movie's box office success or failure. Knightley and Pine did have the potential for some very playful on-screen chemistry, but Jack and Cathy's relationship wasn't fully developed and appeared to have happened mostly off-screen in the early portion of the film. Ultimately, the film's biggest flaw was a minor one that involved Knightley and Branagh's on-screen accents, which seemed either forced or not right for what the part called for. In an effort to make her accent credible, Knightley's American accent sounded forced from the start because she tended to over enunciate everything that was said. If she was a little more relaxed, her character's accent might have been a little more convincing. Branagh's on-screen Russian accent, on the other hand, was simply not believable from the very start, such as Sean Connery's flawed accent in "The Hunt for Red October." It's a shame because Branagh gave a convincing performance as a troubled villain who wasn't entirely inhumane.
As for breakout performances, Pine and Costner led the pack as their characters formed a unique on-screen rapport that made moviegoers root for them to stop Branagh's character from completing his mission. Pine embodied Ryan with a sense of playful charm and anger that drove the character to doing some pretty heroic deeds. Sure, Jack Ryan has brought to the big screen before by multiple actors with various results, but Pine helped to make moviegoers remember his version of the iconic literary and movie character. His most memorable scene involved when Jack was racing to save his kidnapped fiancee from becoming a casualty of a brewing war between the United States and Russia. As Jack raced through the city to save Cathy, Pine mixed his performance with looks of fear, anger and panic that he might not be able to save the day this time. He also had a strong rapport with Knightley that made viewers care about whether Cathy lived or die, even if they already knew what her fate was truly going to be. Pine also had a strong rapport with Costner's mysterious Harper as they uncovered the truth about everything leading up to a planned terrorist attack. Pine's scenes with Costner brought some much needed moments of levity for a while, even if the rest of the story didn't. Costner had the more challenging task of being one of the movie's supporting players who still made a huge impression, even when he wasn't there. He embodied Harper with a sense of morality, mystery and humor as he continued to test Pine's Ryan for better or worse. Costner made the most of his limited screentime as his character was also designed with the purpose of moving the story along for better or worse. His strongest scenes usually involved Costner's Harper coming out of nowhere to either help Jack along or providing some important insight for a mission. Let's hope that possible future films could give Costner the chance to have his own story, even if it's a brief one in the end.
Verdict: Despite a few minor flaws, Pine managed to portray a credible portrayal of Jack Ryan that made it almost seem that time hasn't passed since the last movie. He helped bring Jack Ryan to life in a time where the past wasn't always something to be looked back on fondly.
"Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit" opened on January 17th and is currently in theaters everywhere. Check your local listings for times.
Movie Score: 3 out of 5 stars
Movie Rating: PG-13
1 Star (Mediocre)
2 Stars (Averagely Entertaining)
3 Stars (Decent Enough to Pass Muster)
4 Stars (Near Perfect)
5 Stars (Gold Standard)