As innovation and originality are seem to be fading away, Hollywood has found comfort in teaching old dogs new tricks. We’ve seen dozens of reboots and remakes within the last few years and it seems that 2014 will be a year for many more of those. However, rebooting an iconic character into a new franchise has always been something that has fascinated me. Despite having multiple actors play James Bond, each film follows its own story and each actor builds upon the character in a unique way. If all sequels/reboots/remakes were like that, I probably wouldn’t mind that so many were being made. Fortunately in the case of this film, it does just that.
Jack Ryan (Chris Pine) was among the top of his class when he was at school in London and his analytical skills were unparalleled. After the 9/11 attacks, Jack enlists in the Marines and begins to serve his country in any way that he can. During a tour in Afghanistan, his chopper is shot down and he is critically injured. During rehabilitation therapy, Jack meets his future fiancé, Dr. Cathy Muller (Keira Knightley), a bright woman who helps him recover from his injury. At the end of his final session, Jack is approached by C.I.A. Agent Thomas Harper (Kevin Costner) and asked to join the agency as an analyst. He’ll be in deep cover and will have the access to observe what’s really going on in the world.
When the United Nations is brought in to settle a currency dispute between Russia and the United States, tensions rise and a dastardly plan develops in Moscow. Viktor Cherevin (Kenneth Branagh), a prestigious Russian banker, finds himself under questioning from Ryan, who has flown to Moscow to uncover secret bank accounts that are depositing large funds into one of the U.S. banks. What Jack finds in Russia is enough to get him killed and he’ll have to leave the analyst life behind if he wants to survive the trip and save the U.S. There is no shortage of action and adventure and as the plot thickens, your interest grows in this fun reboot of a classic American character.
Directed by Branagh, Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit explores the story of Jack Ryan Jr. and his escapades in the 2000’s. The untimely passing of Tom Clancy, the creator of the Jack Ryan novels, certainly adds some pressure to this film and its authenticity, but I believe that film holds its own against the previous films that follow an older Jack Ryan. There are some laughs, some great action, awful accents, and fun characters that are easy to get behind. Despite it’s release in January (the dead-zone), this film stands out among the other releases in 2014 and is sure to be a hit.
Chris Pine is slowly starting to take over the big, blockbuster franchises that everyone loves. First it was Star Trek, now it’s Jack Ryan, and he’s even taking some romantic roles to keep himself fresh with the ladies. It’s not crazy to think that he could be the next Tom Cruise, as his acting skills have shown a lot of potential. He’s great with stunts and he’s also a likeable guy. As Jack Ryan, we get a fresh look at a familiar face and his analytical tendencies outweigh his physical ones. That’s not to say that Pine doesn’t kick ass, bit his best sequences come when he deciphers data and brilliantly displays who the character really is. In that regard, the film is interesting and it manages to stay true to the source material that so many people have come to enjoy.
As The Russian banker, Branagh touts a fantastic Russian accent that includes the shortening of words and the addition of the letter “s” to the ends of them. He’s very intimidating at times, but also shows some arc as we learn about hid character. His master plan is more or less unique and the way he goes about executing it is a lot of fun to watch unfold. There is a great sequence at dinner where Branagh and Pine play off of one another really well and it’s a joy to watch. It’s scenes like that one that also highlight some of his skills as a director. Also highlighting his skills, are the scenes that Costner is a part of. Costner, another veteran actor, plays his role just fine as has a lot of fun doing so. He even gets some action sequences that are directed in a stylistic fashion. As a whole, the film is put together pretty well and most of that is due to Branagh.
Now, as much as I love Keira Knightley and her contributions to the Pirates of the Caribbean films, she doesn’t really do much in this film. Her character is consistently whining and in peril, and Knightley has one of the most dreadful American accents I’ve ever heard. I don’t understand why she wouldn’t stick with her British accent, because her character is a dual-citizen. She spends most of her time being the object of last and distress and she doesn’t help advance the story. Well, that is until she figures something out for the C.I.A.. Other than that, her character is pretty useless and she’s not someone who you care about.
As far as execution and story go, this film feels very generic in the way it handles situations. There’s a lot of typical dialog that you’d expect in a spy movie and the natural progression of events seems rudimentary. While there are some tense and gripping moments, they’re all cut short and resolved rather simplistically. It’s all stuff that you’ve seen before and if you’re fine with that, you’re going to have a great time with this film. When it comes down to the “big finale”, underwhelming interventions occur and the film ends in an anticlimactic manner. Although, it does leave room for a sequel, as most franchise films must.
Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit lies right in the middle of the scale and is just an average movie. Admittedly, it is a lot of fun, but you’ve seen this film a dozen times. It doesn’t focus enough energy on who the characters are and wastes time trying to incorporate flashy action sequences. Don’t get me wrong, I love a good action scene. I just wish that there had been more intelligence in the film and building of these key characters, especially if we’re going to see them appear in sequels. For what’s out in theaters now, this film is a great pick if you want to sit down and have some mindless fun. If you’re looking for more or more of the character from the novels, there isn’t too much of that to be had. Still, this film is a good time that goes by pretty quickly and will be a fun watch for everyone.
Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit Trailer