Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit
Cast: Jack Ryan (Chris Pine), Cathy Muller (Keira Knightley), Thomas Harper (Kevin Costner), Viktor Cherevin (Kenneth Branagh)
Director: Kenneth Branagh
Theatrical release: 01/17/2014
DVD Date: 06/10/2014
Running Time: 105 minutes
Note(s): Original screenplay by Adam Cozad and David Koepp and based on a character created by Tom Clancy.
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Review: Chris Pine stars as a young Jack Ryan in this latest entry to the existing film franchise, which stars (respectively) Alex Baldwin, Harrison Ford, and Ben Affleck as the CIA analyst (or in this case, the CIA analyst to be).
The story opens with Ryan dropping out of graduate school to join the Marines after the attacks on the World Trade Center in September 2001. (One of the reasons this film shouldn't be called a prequel is that it is set in time after all the previous films.) He's injured and returns stateside to recuperate. It is here that he meets Thomas Harper (Kevin Costner), who encourages Ryan to complete his studies and sign on as a covert agent/analyst with his department. (It's never quite clear what department Harper runs, but it's clearly one within the CIA.) In the meantime, Ryan has met and is living with Cathy Muller (Keira Knightley), but is restricted from telling her what his "real" job is.
Fast forward a bit and Ryan sees some unusual financial transactions involving a company in Moscow headed by Viktor Cherevin (Kenneth Branagh, who also directed the film). Cherevin begins a cover-up but not before Ryan is able to make off with a copy of the original data. Ryan is pursued but (of course) escapes, injured but alive.
Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit seems to try to accomplish too much in 100 minutes. There is a backstory to the Russian financial manipulations, but it is barely alluded to (probably because it is so absurd anyway). It would seem that there would have been more creative and certainly more credible ways to get Ryan into Moscow and out with the data than to pin the whole story on a potential global conflict over, of all things, a pipeline. Setting this aside, the storyline flows well and moves forward at a brisk clip though I would have preferred a little more tension and suspense.
Chris Pine is fine as a young Jack Ryan and Kevin Costner is superb as his handler. Kenneth Branagh is OK as the bad guy, but never seems quite as menacing as he thinks he is. Keira Knightley's character is a major distraction, and not in a good way, her performance childish and immature. She plays Cathy Muller as if she were a pre-teenaged adolescent, and the scenes she is in are really quite embarrassing to watch. Suffice it to say this would have been a much stronger film without her.
For the first in a presumed series of films featuring this character in a contemporary setting (and presumably starring Chris Pine as Jack Ryan), Shadow Recruit achieves its purpose of introducing the character and his strengths in a generally entertaining and enjoyable way, and appropriately setting the stage for future adventures.
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