Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit (2014) – Review

3 Stars

The newly rebooted Jack Ryan franchise is energized from its long dormant state with a total overhaul that ironically proves the closest to Tom Clancy’s original concept, yet to hit the screen. This is a neatly assembled action thriller that is appreciatively modestly scaled in ambition and design. I applaud the filmmakers for resisting the urge to mine the Bourne/Bond territory, though one scene in which Jack kills for the first time comes close to imitating a similar sequence in Casino Royale. Speaking of 007, director Kenneth Branagh makes a case that he should be handed the reigns of that franchise when current overseer Sam Mendes decides to pursue more illustrious endeavors.

The extremely lean and efficient screenplay credited to writers Adam Cozad & David Koepp quickly establishes a melancholy tone that perfectly suits the material and the main character’s conflicted feelings about his personal and professional existence. We are introduced to Jack Ryan (a perfectly cast Chris Pine) on a lazy afternoon during his college days in London. Then the 9/11 attacks happen and the economics major enlists in the Marine Corps, where he is deployed to Afghanistan and suffers a near fatal injury in an attack on his unit.

During his rehabilitation Jack falls for his pretty nurse, Cathy (Keira Knightley) and is approached by a government figure (Kevin Costner) to join the CIA as an analyst for Geo-political terrorism. Cut to present day, Jack works in an upscale financial firm on Wall Street and Cathy is a practicing physician. Spotting shady transactions between New York and Russia, Ryan stumbles on a plot to destroy the U.S. economy ignited by a concurrent terrorist attack.

Nothing in Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit is cutting edge, but everything works from the casting to the direction. This is a nearly flawless film for about the first hour before the lapses in credibility become too great to ignore. This third-act mist-step, while a let-down didn’t fully diminish my enjoyment of the picture and I recommend it to any familiar with the source material and to those just looking for a brawny thriller.

Director: Kenneth Branagh
Stars: Chris Pine, Kevin Costner, Keira Knightley

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