JACK RYAN: SHADOW RECRUIT
***1/2 (out of 5)
January 17, 2014
Chris Pine as JACK RYAN
Keira Knightley as CATHY MULLER
Kevin Costner as THOMAS HARPER
Kenneth Branagh as VIKTOR CHEREVIN
Lenn Kudrjawizki as CONSTANTIN
Directed by: Kenneth Branagh
BY KEVIN CARR
Listen to Kevin’s radio review…
Leading up to the release of “Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit,” the biggest oddity that came with it was the fact that it was being released into theaters in January, which is a notorious dumping ground for crappy horror movies and films that just couldn’t hack it anywhere else. However, after seeing the film, this release date makes sense, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing.
Like “The Bourne Legacy,” which was a bit of a diversion from the first three “Bourne” films, “Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit” is different from the various Jack Ryan films that we’ve seen over the years. And that’s been a rocky run as it was, starting with Alec Baldwin in “The Hunt for Red October,” who passed the baton to Harrison Ford in “Patriot Games” and “Clear and Present Danger.” Ben Affleck took up the reigns in the lackluster “The Sum of All Our Fears” at the turn of the century, and the cinematic incarnation of Tom Clancy’s famous spy disappeared for more than a decade.
“Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit” isn’t meant to just reboot the franchise. It’s meant to redefine it. It makes for a very different film than those aforementioned features. Rather than being a whiz-bang, massive action flick, “Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit” is more of a slow burn. This tends to be the M.O. of director Kenneth Branagh, and it works for the film.
The movie follows Jack Ryan (Chris Pine) after his military service, where he is recruited into the CIA by his mysterious handler Thomas Harper (Kevin Costner). Just a desk jockey analyst, Ryan is sent to Moscow to look into some potential pay-offs for terrorist activities. There, he finds himself in mortal danger as he begins to uncover the dirty dealings with Russian businessman Viktor Cherevin (Branagh). At the same time, his girlfriend Cathy (Keira Knightley) comes to meet him in Moscow, putting herself in danger as well.
“Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit” is a slick-looking political thriller. It has some decent action set-pieces as well as some tense suspense moments as the characters do their snatch-and-grab spy thing. The characters are pretty good, and Chris Pine is definitely a fitting replacement to Harrison Ford (arguably the most popular incarnation of Jack Ryan on the screen).
Also impressive is Kevin Costner, whose career had hit the skids about 10 or 15 years ago. He went through the struggle that many actors do, not deciding if he was a good guy or a bad guy, a young romantic lead or a seasoned veteran. Now that he’s gotten older, Costner is slipping into the father figure role, having played Clark Kent’s adoptive dad in “Man of Steel” last year and now comfortably becoming Jack Ryan’s surrogate work father in this film. This guy may have found himself a new niche.
While I’ve always enjoyed the Jack Ryan movies, they haven’t been a huge part of my cinematic upbringing. I’ve never picked up a Tom Clancy book, but I do understand that he is quite popular with his fan base. In the end, this version of Jack Ryan is a good way to reboot the character. Chris Pine, if he plays his cards right, can have another slick franchise under his belt, making him a coveted actor by the studios.
Had “Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit” come out in the summer, it might have faltered under the pressure of other massive movies. However, dropping it into the January frame might have been the best thing for this film. It’s far superior to most of what you see in the first month of the year, and it differentiates itself nicely from the higher quality award flicks that are also getting play. In the end, it’s not perfect, but you can do a lot worse this month, and even this opening weekend.