Strong Action, Acting Overcomes Film’s Slow Start

Technique, 23 January 2014
By Kevin Lee

'Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit' opened this past weekend on Jan. 17 after being delayed from its initial release date on Christmas.

The Jack Ryan movies are based on the best-selling military novels by the late Tom Clancy. His Jack Ryan series boasts nine books, so there remains a wealth of material for sequels, pending box office sales.

Now 12 years after the last Jack Ryan film, 'The Sum of All Fears', which was not exactly critically acclaimed, the question remains the same. Does 'Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit' deliver?

The film starts off with a young Jack Ryan (Chris Pine, Star Trek) who, after being injured while doing a tour in Afghanistan, is recruited into the CIA by Second Lieutenant Thomas Harper (Kevin Costner, 'Man of Steel') for his skills as an analyst. While injured and in rehabilitation, he also meets Cathy Muller (Kiera Knightley, 'Pirates of the Caribbean'), with whom he sparks a romance.

Then enters Viktor Cherevin (Kenneth Branagh, 'My Week with Marilyn'), a Russian with an extreme sense of patriotism who harbors a grudge against the U.S. Cherevin plans to ruin the U.S. economically by destroying the value of the dollar, thus initiating the Second Great Depression.

Initially, the release date gave reason for worry, since most movies that are pushed into the upcoming year are not usually good, especially if the prior release was set for Christmas.

But 'Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit' was surprisingly entertaining.

It covers all the bases for an action film and delivers solid performances from each member of the cast. Chris Pine does an excellent job filling in the shoes left by the previous Jack Ryans played by Harrison Ford and Alec Baldwin.

Pine captures the character’s naiveté as an inexperienced field operator with realistic accuracy and portrays a likeable protagonist.

Kenneth Branagh also gave a stellar performance as the villain, although his accent in the film is somewhat questionable. Branagh was able to present a menacing and dangerous adversary to Jack Ryan. Sometimes when a director plays such a large role in his own film, it spells trouble, but Branagh gave a well-balanced performance, which really made the viewer root for Jack.

Keira Knightley did well in her role as Jack Ryan’s girlfriend, and it was interesting to see her using an American accent—her first time doing so. Kevin Costner is not new to acting, so of course he was spot-on in his performance as Harper, a gruff and by-the-books CIA officer, who also acts as a mentor-of-sorts to Jack.

For the first 25-30 minutes, where it goes into the origins of Jack’s character, the film seemed to lack a sense of direction, but during the second act, after the plot kicks in, the movie finds its pace and finishes strongly.

Some parts of the movie seem a little cheesy or hokey, but for the most part, 'Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit' was an enjoyable and entertaining film to watch and is a welcome addition to the Jack Ryan films. Hopefully for the sequel, the series can come into its own with all the exposition out of the way.


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