Jack Ryan has been a piece of pop culture for over two decades. Created by the late Tom Clancy in his series of novels, Ryan became an everyman hero that was at once relatable and still intense. In the nineties, Ryan stories “The Hunt for Red October,” “Clear and Present Danger,” “Patriot Games” entered the cinematic medium, each accumulating a respectable sum and a legion of fans. In 2002, Paramount studios decided to reboot the franchise with a new actor portraying Ryan (after Alec Baldwin in “Red October” and Harrison Ford for “Games” and “Present Danger”). Led by Ben Affleck, “The Sum of All Fears” carried the torch and brought a new generation of fans. Then the franchise went dormant.
Finally, Ryan returned the big screen after a ten-year absence. For the first time using an original story, “Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit” aims to reignite a solid political thriller franchise.
After a brief prologue that incorporates September 11, 2001, “Shadow Recruit” brings the story to modern day. Ryan, played this time by Chris Pine, has ditched his college education to serve after the attack on American soil. When a mission puts him on a long road to recovery, Ryan is presented with a unique opportunity: finish his degree in economics and use his skills to track and out any potential terrorist funding. Despite the job sounding more like an analyst’s position, one investigation leads Ryan to becoming more integral to discovering why a Russian company is hiding their earnings. What Ryan finds put the country and potential global economy in jeopardy.
Whenever one of the films from this franchise is seen, it’s important to note that these are more thrillers than action movies. Though they have action sequences and intense climaxes, each is more grounded in reality when compared to comparable conspiracy canons “Mission Impossible,” the Jason Bourne, and James Bond universes. By that measure, is a solid new beginning. Fans of the film will undoubtedly be trying to picture Harrison Ford in each situation, as his portrayal was the most iconic. But like Pine did with Captain Kirk, he balances homage and reinvention to make the role his own.
Directed by Kenneth Branagh, “Shadow Recruit” has the immediacy and intensity people come to expect of Jack Ryan. Having Kevin Costner as Ryan’s handler, the film mimics a passing of the torch from Costner’s heyday. The old mixture of conditioned action star and new talent creates a paternal relationship that has appeared in previous Ryan incarnations.
Though “Shadow Recruit” dusts off a role and gets it going again, it doesn’t have the snap that reboots of Batman and James Bond did. It stands on it’s own, but may not be enough to allow the studio the confidence to revisit it, which would be a shame. The absence of something truly profound will make it hard to remember six months from now. That said, the fans will surely enjoy it. 3 out of 5 stars
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