Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit

jack-ryan-shadow-recruit-poster_huge (1)Release Date: January 17, 2014
Cast: Chris Pine, Kevin Costner, Keira Knightley, Kenneth Branagh
Director: Kenneth Branagh
Studio: Skydance Productions
Distributor: Paramount Pictures
Genre(s): Action, Thriller
Based On Characters Created by Tom Clancy

Rating: ★★★☆☆
Review Spoilers:
IMDB | Rotten Tomatoes | Wikipedia

Now, the Jack Ryan part isn’t dumb. The ‘Shadow Recruit’ part is dumb because, honestly, it makes it sounds like Jack Ryan is some super spy and he’s really not. He’s a guy with a computer on Wall Street following money trails for terrorists. That’s not really ‘shadow recruit’-y to me but hey. It probably tested well. And, to be fair, while Jack Ryan’s initial assignment might seem boring it gets way more interesting as the events of this movie unfold.

Doesn't this just make spying seem awesome. [TheVerge.com]
Doesn’t this just make spying seem awesome. [TheVerge.com]
Going into this movie, though, I wasn’t sure I was going to like it. I’m not a canonical purist by any means. I love adaptations and re-imaginings. But this is Jack Ryan. This is decades of Tom Clancy books, Alec Baldwin, and Harrison Ford. (And Ben Affleck but, meh, I could live without Sum of All Fears.) I love Chris Pine and I love Kevin Costner (mostly because of the Postman) and Kenneth Branagh is always wonderful but I wasn’t quite sure what they were going to do with things. I was surprised to see that for the most part, though, they actually stayed very true to the original character background. They just modified it for a more modern audience.

This new Jack Ryan is a product of a post-9/11 world. As a graduate student in London he watched the Twin Towers fall while surrounded by foreign classmates and dropped out of school to join the marines. Unlike in the books, the helicopter accident that broke his back was not an accident during a simple training exercise but during a mission through hostile airspace in Afghanistan. This Jack Ryan recovered at Walter Reed, he was recruited by the CIA there, and immediately went to work for them on Wall Street. He married the med student who helped him through physical therapy. It’s a new adaptation of the character but it’s not an unwelcome one. Tom Clancy’s Jack Ryan was the sort of hero for another generation. This film’s Jack Ryan is one that people my age are far more likely to find relateable.

Okay, so, spying looks a little bit cooler here... [Geek Tyrant]
Okay, so, spying looks a little bit cooler here… [Geek Tyrant]
He kinds of gets thrust into action hero mode. After discovering a few discrepancies with an account in Russia Ryan finds himself overseas fighting for his life in scenarios for which he was never trained. There’s a great mix between the analyst and the marine, the technical side of the story and the old school cat and mouse spy chase. The story never really drags, things keep you interested mostly from start to finish. The background scenes from earlier on in Ryan’s story aren’t that interesting necessarily but they are kind of adorable at times. But the rest of the movie keeps you on your toes and the whole resolution is quite satisfying.

I don’t want to give too much away so let’s talk about the characters and the actors.

Now aren't they adorable? [Crave Online]
Now aren’t they adorable? [Crave Online]
Chris Pine is a great actor if only because he’s sort of gorgeous. I mean, he’s really gorgeous. He’s fun and he knows how to deliver lines that can be both furn and serious. But while he carried himself well and he and Keira Knightly were believable as Jack and Kathy. Though if Kathy were my fiancee I have to say I’d have been twenty times better at lying to her because seriously. She gets all up in things she’s not supposed to be all up in.

I will say, though, that as great as they were my favorite characters were Kevin Costner’s Harper and Branagh’s Viktor Cherevin.

Kenneth Branagh at his most intimidating.
Kenneth Branagh at his most intimidating. [Collider]
Cherevin is the big bad and though, honestly, his motivation seemed pretty weak Branagh nailed it. I’d be terrified of that guy coming at me as Viktor Cherevin. No way I’d want to cross him. I will say, though, that I never realized that Kenneth Branagh was lacking in the lip department until I saw his face right up in front of me on an IMAX screen.

Kevin Costner as Harper though? I don’t know, man. He was some how hilarious. It was just the situations his character showed up in and Costner’s deadpan delivery at all times. He was the perfect experienced, thrill seeking senior agent who knows just how to handle himself in all situations. Every scene he was in I was just like yessssssssss Kevin Costner. I have a Kevin Costner thing. It’s totally because of the Postman. Not even going to lie.

So the big question: should you go see this movie in theatres?

Sure! I mean, it’s a fun movie and it’s got a fantastic cast. You’re going to go in there and you’re going to get your money’s worth. Seeing it in IMAX isn’t really necessary – a regular theatre ticket will do and if you can save money by going during matinee prices then I’d say go for it. It would make a decent date movie if you and your significant other are both into the genre (or you both have the hots for Chris Pine) and you’re tired of comedies. Because other than Paranormal Activity: the Marked Ones and a handful of comedies your only other options are Hercules and I, Frankenstein when that comes out next week.

Jack Ryan is by far the winner.

Final Thoughts: 
The folks who finished putting together Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit would have done Tom Clancy proud, I think. Jack Ryan is a hero who has proven he isn’t just meant for the Cold War. This was a pretty good modern adaptation of the character. I don’t know if Shadow Recruit is going to kick off a slew of Jack Ryan-based sequels but if they can keep this awesome cast together I wouldn’t mind seeing more.

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