Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit – Review
With franchise reboots now just a fact of life in cinema, Tom Clancy’s Jack Ryan is the latest character to have his universe repolished, rebranded and regurgitated back onto the big screen. This time around, it’s all about firsts – it’s the first time the character’s origin story has been played out on screen, as well as the first time the character has featured in a movie not adapted from a Tom Clancy novel.
With the Cold War long over, this time out the titular economist-turned-agent must travel to Moscow to investigate strange financial rumblings under the watch of a ruthless oligarch. Before he has pack his briefcase and head home however, Ryan finds himself at the centre of a plot to attack the US both on the trading floor and on the streets. Oh, and there’s the unexpected arrival of his suspicious fiancé to deal with too.
For Ryan’s fifth outing, Chris Pine steps up to the plate, taking the bat from Alec Baldwin, Harrison Ford and Ben Affleck, and retasking the character as the everyman spy for the ages, in theory anyway. In execution, Pine’s performance as Ryan merely serves to highlight how forgettable the character really is on screen. Sure, Pine can handle the rough stuff fairly well, with the trailerific bathroom-set action-sequence staggeringly gritty albeit now mandated for this post-Bourne genre, but he continues to lack real star appeal. Knightley fares no better in this regard, her character here given the most assigned to her in any of the Ryan movies. However, whilst Knightley is actually rather likeable in the role, she simply doesn’t light up a screen the way her banner name would suggest, leaving the real charisma of the film entirely with Costner and Branagh, the former an ironically brilliant casting for the title character and the latter double-dipping as director.
As a director, Branagh’s on fine form here; his work at once workmanlike but stylised and frenetic. The film looks superb, a near comical statement being that Moscow has never looked this alluring on screen, despite next to none of it being filmed there. It’s a very glossy yet dramatic affair, wearing it’s influences on it’s sleeve (I’m always happy to see a True Lies riff) and playing out like a Mission: Impossible movie without the action sequences. In fact, it’s strange that when the film does try to run with action sequences that it falls mostly flat, particularly in a third act sequence harking back to Clancy-homage The Peacemaker in 1997.
Ultimately, it’s a decent enough attempt to reboot Jack Ryan for the post 9/11 world, but it’s simply too little, too late to an audience experienced in the likes of Bourne, Bond and Bauer. The film is enjoyable, yet instantly forgettable. As for it’s intended audience, your guess is as good as mine. It’s hard to imagine the audience for any of the previous movies or even the Clancy books walking away truly happy with the film, the same going for any of the fifteen year olds who seem to buy the nine or so Tom Clancy video games released each year. Mostly bizarrely of all, the casting suggests an audience of 25-40 year old university-educated urban couples, which is mystifying at the very least. Put plainly, the intended audience, much like the idea of rebooting Jack Ryan to begin with, simply doesn’t make any sense in a film which can, at best, be called a nuts-and-bolts espionage affair.
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Chris Pine, Kevin Costner, Keira Knightley