Film Review – Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit

Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit (M)

Directed by: Kenneth Branagh

Starring: Chris Pine, Kevin Costner, Keira Knightley

Two stars

Review by: Julian Wright

Like something dragged out of a forgotten 1990s archive, or a copy of a copy of other, better CIA thrillers, Kenneth Branagh’s attempt to rejuvenate Tom Clancy’s famous character (after The Sum Of All Fears failed to spark much interest) plays like something we have seen a hundred times before. There is a distinct sense of deja-vu that hangs over this personality-less, lackluster spy film as it lumbers from one familiar sequence to the next.

After recovering from a war injury, Jack Ryan (Chris Pine) is recruited by Thomas Harper (Kevin Costner) to the CIA as an analyst in the wake of 9/11 -his cover is as a compliance officer at a stock brokerage . When he discovers that stock figures are not adding up over at a Russian sister-company, he is soon jetted off to Moscow for field work where he is promptly made the target of the worst, most unsuccessful assassin in film history.

Ryan soon suspects that company head honcho Viktor Cheverin (Kenneth Branagh) is planning to pull the economic rug out from under USA. With little experience, Ryan is placed in a position of life and death. An added obstacle is the arrival of Jack’s suspicious fiance Cathy (Keira Knightley) who has not been made aware of his chosen career and thinks he is having an affair.

What starts as a likable retread of familiar spy tropes (it feels like a trip down memory lane) with the charming Pine a watchable screen presence, soon becomes a chore of unimaginative, soulless and unbelievable story developments. Branagh rushes through his introduction to Ryan as if with his finger on fast forward as, within minutes, he goes from uni student to army officer to injured war hero to recovering paraplegic. A failed attempt at shorthand – so much information and potential character development is treated as an inconvenience.

Later, the haste and ease in which the CIA incorporate a civilian into their dangerous operation  to retrieve highly classified and secure information is laughable. Meanwhile, Branagh, as the villain, looks like something Mike Myers would have had a field day making fun of with his Dr Evil character in the Austin Powers film. The only thing this cliche character is missing is a cat to stroke. Branagh may have wanted to launch a new re-booted Jack Ryan franchise, but all he has succeeded in doing is running it into the ground. fortunately for Pine, he is attached to the far superior Star Trek re-boot.

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