Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit Movie Review
In The Hunt for Red October, Jack Ryan maneuvered with a Soviet submarine captain looking to defect. In Patriot Games, he survived a revenge attempt by an IRA faction. In Clear and Present Danger, he took on Colombian drug cartels. And now, in 2014, Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit takes the character back to square one to face... a generic terrorist attack by a generic Russian businessman?
I'm a huge fan of the original Jack Ryan movies, and I even like the forgotten child The Sum of All Fears. I went into Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit with low expectations, primarily due to the generic movie trailers filled with generic-looking action and even more generic dialogue. The thought that Paramount had genericized Jack Ryan was upsetting to me.
Thankfully, Jack Ryan is a surprisingly entertaining action movie. Even if it is rather generic.
Chris Pine follows in the footsteps of Alec Baldwin, Harrison Ford and even Ben Affleck to fill the shoes of Tom Clancy's popular character, but for the first time this Jack Ryan movie isn't based on a Tom Clancy book. As a result, the movie - directed by Kenneth Branaugh (Thor), who also plays the villain - plays a bit loose with the character and lacks the complexity of a fully developed Jack Ryan story.
Is that a bad thing? Not necessarily.
Jack Ryan would have benefited from a more compelling and hard-hitting story; the "corrupt Russian businessman" premise has been done to death, and Branaugh brings nothing new to the table. Nonetheless, Branaugh's crafty direction maintains a high level of suspense throughout Jack Ryan, even if the character edges a little too close to Ethan Hunt territory at times.
Pine does a solid job as Jack Ryan. While his version of Jack Ryan feels a bit like a young Captain Kirk at times, you can still see traces of the man he is supposed to become. Pine carries the film well, especially complemented by a cast including Kevin Costner and Keira Knightley (doing what she can with an American accent).
Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit is a fast-paced, entertaining and exciting action movie, hampered only by a forgettable story and villain. The movie is a good start for a new franchise, but going forward Paramount needs to stay somewhat true to the character. Jack Ryan is an analyst, not a full-blown action hero, and Shadow Recruit comes dangerously close to turning him into the latter.
Review by Erik Samdahl unless otherwise indicated.