In an attempt to create the next great action hero, Kenneth Branagh has rebooted Tom Clancy’s “Jack Ryan” series. The titular hero had previously been played by actors Alec Baldwin, Harrison Ford and Ben Affleck, but now “Star Trek’s” Chris Pine has taken the new title of playing the famous character.
Jack Ryan (Pine), a former Marine, finds his way into the CIA after he is recruited by Agent Thomas Harper (Kevin Costner). Unlike the more famous on-screen action heroes, Jack is not an action-oriented agent. He is a brilliant analyst who finds himself thrust into the line of fire after a series of incidents find him upgraded from desk jockey to active duty. He may not be an experienced field agent, but from drawing on his Marine training, he quickly learns the ropes.
For the most part the acting in this movie is great. Pine and Costner expertly play the self-sacrificing American patriots who carry the fate of the country on their shoulders. Branagh, splitting his time both directing and acting, is also quite good as the main antagonist Viktor Cherevin.
Keira Knightley however, is definitely the weak link of the cast in her portrayal of Jack’s fiancé Cathy. Her time on screen often drags on and her dialogue comes off goofy even in the most serious of times.
The fault for that flow though, doesn’t fall completely on Knightley. The writers, Adam Cozad and David Koepp, seemed to have a fantastic grasp on action sequences, but couldn’t quite nail down the idle chit-chat in the more relaxed and romantic scenes. Every so often there would be a line or two that would completely take the audience out of the experience.
Another annoying thing in the writing is the large reliance on all the major Russian stereotypes. There is even a point in the movie when planning a mission that they cite Cheverin’s weaknesses as “he drinks like a Russian,” one of several times that the philandering habits of the villain are played upon.
However, Pine shines bright in a scene where he shares a dinner with both Cathy and Viktor. He has to take advantage of the aforementioned stereotypes to manipulate Viktor to gain access to his office. It is very fun to watch his team work together to accomplish this goal.
In spite of the script’s faults in dialogue, the storyline is actually very entertaining. It takes an interesting spin on the cliché trope of the mad Russians trying to take over the world. We’ve seen it before with Bond and Bourne, but Clancy’s characters make a unique turn of it with the emphasis being on the corporate side of terrorism rather than the typical big explosion. Even with this factor, the stakes seem even higher than usual.
There are a few times where story suffers from pacing issues, specifically the first five minutes that covers 10 years in Jack’s life, while the next fifteen are spent on a single conversation with his doctor. In addition, while most of the action in the movie is played out through well-filmed car chases, there are times where they become a bit tedious when they tend to drag on for a bit.
Overall, “Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit” is still an enjoyable movie, even with its faults in the writing and acting. It may not be the best thriller to release in a while, but fans of the book series and action movies in general should have a great time.
RECOMMENDED: Despite some flaws in the script, several instances of mediocre acting, and overuse of Russian stereotypes, “Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit” is worth a watch.