The late Tom Clancy has always had a knack for writing thrilling espionage. The Hunt for Red October (1990), Patriot Games (1992), Clear and Present Danger (1994), The Some of All Fears (2002)… all films made from Clancy’s Jack Ryan book series. This time around, director Kenneth Branagh (Much Ado About Nothing, Thor) looks to reboot the film series with Chris Pine as the lead.
You don’t need to be a fan of Jack Ryan movies or even familiar with them to take a chance on Shadow Recruit. Like James Bond films, Tom Cruise’s Mission Impossible series, or anything with Jason Statham in it, each outing is meant to stand on its own. Shadow Recruit in many ways feels like an episode of 24. There is no point in wasting time on character development or weighty emotion filled drama because at the end of the day you’re only in it for the thrills. And Jack Ryan’s latest adventure has plenty.
The plot, which is too convoluted to describe fully, mainly involves Russians planning a terrorist attack that will topple the U.S. economy. Chris Pine takes the helm as marine turned CIA analyst Jack Ryan (previously played by Harrison Ford, Ben Affleck, and Alec Baldwin). He isn’t nearly as magnetic as he is in the Star Trek films, but he is good enough to warrant being an action star. Director Branagh, himself, plays the villain who is as dark, deranged and one dimensional as any antagonist in a Jack Ryan movie. Meanwhile, Kevin Costner is at his stoic best as Jack’s CIA mentor and Keira Knightley portrays Jack’s whiny fiancé.
Like with most action movies, Shadow Recruit does well to know that thrills and action sequences are more important than characters or even plot. This isn’t Daniel Craig’s thought provoking Skyfall nor does it try to be. What it is, is a solid two hours of hotel room brawls, car chases, and covert missions that should keep you interested enough to warrant spending a few bucks if you’re bored at home.
FINAL GRADE: B-