Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit (2014)

“You Americans like to think of yourselves as direct. Perhaps you are just rude.”

Chris Pine becomes the fourth actor to bring to life Jack Ryan, Tom Clancy’s most famous character, in this year’s spy-action-thriller Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit. Although often entertaining, director Kenneth Branagh and writer Adam Cozad fail to modernise the Ryan character through the awkward medium of present day-prequel. It is very apparent early on that unlike the other films in the Ryan series, Shadow Recruit  is not based on work by the late great action-thriller writer Tom Clancy. The movie is full of energy and boasts a strong cast, but it lacks any real sense of danger or mystery for the viewer to be pulled along by. In fact, there was definitely more than one moment where I felt bored, therefore failing as a thriller.

As the inaugural reboot pawn, Chris Pine plays a young Jack Ryan, as he moves his way through the early stages of the movie, making as many back story nods as he can, before finally ending up caught in a web of intrigue as a covert analyst, led by the heavily underused Kevin Costner.  The plot, which seems to have been constructed out of a misunderstanding and misrepresentation of American fear and paranoia, centres around the potential threat of an intentional crashing of the American economy, bringing about a second Great Depression. But considering the world is still living through financially uncertain times, it is hardly the most terrifying of prospects when most people’s memory of the Great Depression lies in history books and mobster movies.

Instead of an adrenaline ride of great chases and political intrigue, we are put through a string of spy and even ‘Jack Ryan’ clichés, interspersed with Keira Knightley struggling with an American accent, Chris Pine running excitedly back and forth like he is on the bridge of the Enterprise and shots of Branagh looking very smug with himself as both director central villain. At no point did I feel like anyone was in danger (always a problem with stories where we know the character’s outcome) and Pine’s performance did not have the balance and professionalism that Ford and Baldwin had. It all creates an average affair that does not have the intelligent motives and intense storyline that makes Jack Ryan movies great.

Shapstik Verdict: Branagh has a record of making entertaining movies and his Jack Ryan origin story is no exception. But without the strength of a great story and a relatable threat behind it, Shadow Recruit is a rather pointless and forgettable affair that does not do the decent cast justice. 5/10

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