By Mark Saldana
Rating: 3 (Out of 4 Stars)
Jack Ryan, the character created by late author Tom Clancy, has had quite a successful run in Clancy’s novels, as well as some of the movies based on these books. Opening in theaters is a film which is actually not based on a particular Clancy penned novel, but takes some elements of the character established on paper, and creates a reboot movie with the obvious intention of a new film series. Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit has some of the elements which may moderately appeal to fans of Clancy’s book series, and may actually win some new fans not well versed in Ryan’s universe. With the recent embracing of Bourne style action in espionage thrillers including the new Bond films, I thought that this new movie would latch on to this recent trend. Thankfully, this movie doesn’t take this quick and easy path to box office success, though it does succeed in offering intense action sequences. Still, this film annoyingly adopts other clichés and tropes often used in other stories of this genre.
Jack Ryan (Chris Pine) joins the C.I.A. as an analyst after surviving a harrowing helicopter crash while in the Marines. Agent Thomas Harper (Kevin Costner) sees that Ryan is highly talented and has the potential for greatness. Harper recruits him for a special mission investigating the funding of terrorism within the banking system of the U.S. When Ryan notices some odd discrepancies involving some Russian accounts, he is sent to Russia to dig deeper. During this trip, Jack must go toe-to-toe with a businessman named Viktor Cherevin (Kenneth Branagh) who has some nefarious plans to attack the United States.
Written by Adam Cozad and David Koepp and directed by Kenneth Branagh, this brand new installment in the Jack Ryan movie world does succeed in delivering nail biting thrills and action, but also suffers from some silly, corny and cliché writing. The movie does have some awesome, suspenseful scenes, and some pulse raising action sequences, but the film also gets a bit banal when it comes to its villain and his behavior.
Branagh seems to embrace this minimally dimensional character which often comes across as a mustache twisting baddie as opposed to a real life threat to human life. Nevertheless, when the movie does work, I must say that I sat enthralled and often on the edge of my seat. I do have a complaint, which I have expressed before when it comes to recent action films, though. The cinematography by Haris Zambarloukos and editing by Martin Walsh presented a lot of the action in a shaky, blurry and indecipherable manner. This grew a bit frustrating and had me rubbing my eyes as I tried to make some sense of what was happening.
I did get to watch the film on a mini IMAX screen (not 3D), and this both worked well and possibly created other issues as some of the static scenes appeared a bit blurry. I will say that some of the more explosive visuals looked and sounded incredible in this venue, though. The script and direction may have been flawed, but I cannot completely deny that I had a great time overall.
I do have to say that Chris Pine does a fine job portraying Jack Ryan. In fact his portrayal reminded me a little of Alec Baldwin’s interpretation of the character in The Hunt For Red October. The movie also stars Keira Knightley as Ryan’s fiancé Cathy. She does have some great moments onscreen, but does suffer from the limited writing of the script. In fact, Pine and Knightley have an awkward chemistry in the film, but I think that this is due to the poor development their relationship receives in the film.
This movie suffers from inconsistent writing, some sloppy character development and cliché villainy, but does manage to work on a certain as an espionage thriller/action vehicle. While it may not be an awesome example of a new direction for the Clancy character, it does show some potential for a new promising series. I think a new director and crew with better screenwriters could do something really badass with this cast and characters.