Wednesday, 15 January 2014

Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit: Movie Review

Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit: Movie Review

Cast: Chris Pine, Keira Knightley, Kevin Costner, Kenneth Branagh
Director: Kenneth Branagh

It's a reboot for Tom Clancy's Jack Ryan character, made so famous by Harrison Ford's portrayal in films like Patriot Games.

This time around, the film's given a contemporary once over as Chris Pine's Jack Ryan goes from enlisting after the horrors of 9/11, being injured and scoring a role within the CIA as a covert analyst. (All within the space of the film's opening 10 minutes)

Ryan's skill? He's a PHD analyst who crunches the data but having worked on Wall Street, Ryan's managed to find a scheme concocted by Russia to bring down the U.S economy and wreak global chaos.

With his handler Harper (Kevin Costner in a quietly restrained and impressive turn), Jack's thrust into the world of being an active agent after an attempt on his life - and in direct conflict with Victor Cheverin (Kenneth Branagh, also on directorial duties complete with emotionless Russian robotic accent). But saving the world isn't just the biggest problem Ryan's facing - he's also got to try and keep his relationship with his in-the-dark other half Kathy (Keira Knightley) alive as well....

Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit is apparently Tom Clancy's last film as a writer before his death in October last year and it's not a bad attempt at a sophisticated thriller, but a bit of a misfire in terms of an action-packed thriller.

Though it has to be said, some of the film cripples itself quite badly with its typical pulpy touches which are more suited to the page than screaming originality on the big screen.

The film jumps around global hopping style in its opening moments as the geo-politic thriller gets underway, and rather than being dizzying and exciting, it's sort of limp and unexciting, despite establishing Pine's Ryan as a man of the people (he cares for his colleagues, his fallen brothers).

There are your typical cinematic big sweeping bon mots too that you'd expect of a global thriller of its ilk - including "It's an act of economic war" and "We're on a godamned luxury boat here, don't rock it"- which are all uttered with straight faces and from under very worried brows that it's vexing rather than suspenseful.

Pine and Costner are impressive as the leads; Costner delivers a low key understated turn as the handler and Pine brings his stoic talents to the fore as Ryan. But neither of them can really lift the perfunctory almost workmanlike tone of the film, which is pulled together with varying degrees of success by Branagh. While some of his pared back action scenes are tautly impressive, none really stand out as original unfortunately and the directorial flair is lacking - even though his Russian backdrops serve him well.

The worst part of the east vs west vibe of the film though is the narrative that allows Keira Knightley's Cathy into the spy world. Initially clueless at Ryan's duplicitousness, she's brought in to take part in the sting that could decide the fate of the world - it's this turn of events which throws any limited credibility out of the window from what was a relatively intelligent premise into a spy trope you've seen millions of times before.

Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit lacks a little of the killer instinct needed; those hoping for high blockbuster thrills and action scenes all over the place will be underwhelmed.


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