Clancy Rebooted – A review of Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit

Jack Ryan (Chris Pine) formally meets Thomas Harper (Kevin Costner) while recuperating from injuries sustained in a helicopter crash
Jack Ryan (Chris Pine) formally meets Thomas Harper (Kevin Costner) while recuperating from injuries sustained in a helicopter crash

Title: Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit

Production Company: Paramount

Run Time: 105 minutes

Rated: PG-13

Director: Kenneth Brannagh

Stars: Chris Pine, Kevin Costner, Keira Knightley, Kenneth Brannagh

4 stars for Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit

Summary: Yet another reboot for Chris Pine. This time he steps into the shoes of Tom Clancy’s master analyst. And the results are really good.

With everything I do, I don’t often have the chance to sit down and read all the books I’d like, however that doesn’t stop me from picking up the latest Tom Clancy thrillers when they’re released. Now that he’s gone, I’m going to have to find another author to latch onto, I guess.

I have to say too, given the penchant for Hollywood to botch big screen versions of popular novels, that I’ve been highly impressed by the quality of the movies based on Clancy thrillers. Even this movie, while being a complete series reboot, is still well played and thoroughly exciting.

This is the fifth movie based on the characters created by Clancy and Chris Pine is the fourth actor to play Ryan on the big screen, following in the footsteps of iconic actors Alec Baldwin, Harrison Ford and Ben Affleck.

Pine, who plays young James Kirk in the Star Trek reboots, is well cast here as the soldier turned CIA analyst who can carry the thinking man’s action hero to the next generation of Clancy fans.

The film starts out, innocuously enough, in London where young student Jack Ryan witnesses the destruction of the World Trade Center on TV with his fellow college students. Knowing Ryan’s a yank prompts a student to express condolences for American losses.

This event is evidently the catalyst that focuses Ryan on joining the military. Ryan joins the Marine Corp and is deployed to Afghanistan. His chopper is shot down and he manages to rescue two of his comrades but is badly wounded during the chopper crash.

While being nursed back to health, he falls in love with his nurse, young Kathy Muller (Keira Knightley) who is studying to be an eye surgeon while completing her residency. He also meets the man who would eventually become his first CIA control.

Kevin Costner may not necessarily be Hollywood’s golden boy any longer, but he still knows what he’s doing on the screen. Here, it seems, he gets all the good quips as covert agent Thomas Harper. Hopefully, if they do a sequel, he returns to the role.

The underlying story brings Jack Ryan to Wall Street where he will monitor financial transactions looking for irregularities on behalf of the CIA. And leave it to Ryan to find a doozy.

Wealthy Russian investor Viktor Cherevin (Kenneth Branagh) has a dastardly plan to crush the economy of the US by crashing the stock market when he sells a series of overinflated stocks. This plan also includes an effort to crumble a section of the stock market in a much more translucent manner.

What makes Ryan believable here is that Chris Pine can pull off believably that he’s a musclehead with brains. He’s got decent looks, a good physique and he presents dialogue crisply and with complete believability. He can take even complex data and break it down for the audience.

Knightley almost feels underused here. Her natural beauty seems somewhat restrained but nevertheless, she is still drop dead gorgeous. No wonder Jack Ryan fell for his nurse.

Kenneth Branagh is just sinister enough to play the lead bad guy, as he has done in a number of other films. He also helms this production and he is as accomplished a director as he is an actor.

One of the things I really liked about this film is the way they incorporated elements of Jack Ryan’s past that up to now had only been alluded to in previous books and movies. The reboot, though, brings the character into the modern age while the original stories had Ryan as a soldier in Vietnam.

The plot isn’t as crisp and concise as any of the previous Jack Ryan adventures and the basic storyline may even seem a little mundane especially since it’s set in the present day. After all, shouldn’t Cherevin have known that he doesn’t have to destroy the American economy. Our President is doing a fine job of that all on his own.

This is a nicely done installment though. I give Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit 4 out of 5 stars.

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