Take Two – Sean and Graham’s Review of JACK RYAN: SHADOW RECRUIT
The Jack Ryan films hit the ceiling early when Alec Baldwin played him in The Hunt For Red October and kept a steady momentum with Harrison Ford in the following two films before falling flat on it’s face with Ben Affleck in The Sum Of All Fears. There’s no return to form in this updated reboot that wasn’t written as a Jack Ryan film to begin with, and aside from the characters and a couple of background elements lifted from Patriot Games, the connection to Tom Clancy’s stories pretty much end there.
The script makeover, courtesy of Adam Kozard and David Koepp, brings the titular character (played by Chris Pine) to Afghanistan where he suffers a critical injury during a helicopter attack and is sent to rehabilitation with med student Cathy (Keira Knightly). Thomas Harper (Kevin Costner) of the CIA observes Ryan from a distance and is impressed with his abilities to recognize complex patterns, putting Ryan’s recruitment at the top of Harper’s agenda. Ten years later, we have Jack Ryan working undercover on Wall Street, monitoring economical terrorist activity. He pulls double duty concealing his true identity from his girlfriend Cathy when he comes home. A Russian scheme is discovered that can potentially bring America back to the Great Depression era, and Ryan traces it to a veteran of the Soviet Invasion of Afghanistan named Viktor Cheverin (Kenneth Branagh). This all leads to Ryan travelling to Moscow incognito as he attempts to audit Cheverin’s secret accountants, but he gets more than he bargained for.
Updating Jack Ryan to our present time is one of this screenplay’s biggest problems now that which tech computers are in the picture, taking away a lot of Ryan’s appeal, thus making him near obsolete. They also forgot to give him a personality. Chris Pine doesn’t add or subtract much from this role and he certainly doesn’t seem to elevate his character beyond what was written. Knightly and Costner both deserve credit for making lemonade out of lemons, especially when Knightly’s character is the nagging girlfriend. Costner has to play the character that translates the exposition to the audience because we’re supposedly too dumb to understand all the technical jargon. There’s one nauseating scene that stands out in particular where Jack Ryan has to repeat himself to Harper and is told to explain it like he was talking to a retard.
Branagh directing this film and playing the bad guy only makes sense on the level that he hasn’t played a Russian until now. Maybe it was on his bucket list? Any part of this film that had a chance to be compelling story-wise was rushed, seeing Ryan go from marine to analyst to spy, it might as well have been a montage.
Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit is an unnecessary reboot that commits the cardinal sin of being dull. Aside from a clever nod to Barbara Stanwyck’s Sorry, Wrong Number, this is just a one dimensional character glued to a generic action movie script and the cliches far outweigh the entertainment value. This film deserves a companion book entitled Espionage Movies For Dummies and we as a movie audience just deserve better. — Sean McClannahan