Synopsis: Jack Ryan, as a young covert CIA analyst, uncovers a Russian plot to crash the U.S. economy with a terrorist attack
12 years after Ben Affleck nearly killed Tom Clancy’s golden goose with his turn of the century Beniffer box office killing machine, someone at Paramount evidently thought that enough time had passed and the moment had come to give things a reboot. Enter an all new young fresh out of the box Jack Ryan (Chris Pine) and a grittier origin story of the analyst turned field agent recovering from a battle injury in Afghanistan only to find himself recruited by a lonesome fatherly figure at the CIA (Kevin Costner).
Armed with a script from heavyweight writer David Koepp (Jurassic Park, Carlitos Way, War of the Worlds) and a very 21st century type of terrorism (financial cyber warfare) wrapped up in a very old school Cold War threat, Branagh delivers a Jack Ryan that is more Casino Royale than Sum Of All Fears. In particular a first act coming of age moment that defines Ryan as a man out of his depth, sold a job that was cosy and desk bound but has since morphed into something far more front line.
Unfortunately for all the good work in the first two thirds of the movie to paint Ryan as a rough around the edges fish out of water learning his craft on the fly, the last third falls into the trappings of every other action movie as Ryan suddenly becomes an invincible super daredevil action hero in order to service the necessary end-boss set piece. It serves as a reminder as to why Harrison Ford worked so well as Jack Ryan, because he genuinely did look like, and come across as, the professor spy. The man with the golden PhD in Economics. Chris Pine unfortunately, for all his charisma and screen presence, is just too dashing, too daring, for you to believe he is ever truly struggling. It’s why he was such a perfect choice for James Kirk. It is these moments of natural charm however that often serve to give Shadow Recruit some of it’s most engaging moments as Pine goes toe to toe intellectually with his Russian Oligarch target (Kenneth Branagh).
In spite of this though Shadow Recruit lays good foundations for a series of Jack Ryan installments in the coming years with Pine in the title role. It would be good to see Branagh continue as the controlling mind as his thespian sensibilities mesh well with his sense of pure Hollywood, as was evident in the first Thor.
Conclusion: A solid start to the Ryan reboot era, even if it does undo some of the good work in the beginning by pandering at the end
Cast: Chris Pine, Keira Knightly, Kenneth Branagh, Kevin Costner