Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit review

Review Ryan Lambie 21 Jan 2014 - 09:52

Chris Pine takes on Tom Clancy's most famous hero in Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit. Here's our review of Kenneth Branagh's espionage thriller...

It’s more than a decade since Tom Clancy’s CIA hero Jack Ryan last appeared on the big screen, and Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit serves as a reboot of sorts, introducing Chris Pine as a fresh-faced replacement for his predecessors, Alec Baldwin, Harrison Ford and Ben Affleck.

We follow Pine’s Jack Ryan on his path from an economics student in London, via his tour of duty in Afghanistan as a Marine, and his subsequent injury at the hands of an insurgent attack on his airborne helicopter. It’s while he’s undergoing physiotherapy for a resulting spinal injury that he meets the two people who’ll affect the next few years of his life: Keira Knightley’s Doctor Cathy Muller, who becomes his fiancée, and Kevin Costner’s Commander Thomas Harper.

As if Harper’s imposing presence and dour demeanour wasn’t enough to at least hint that he works for the government, he quickly makes his position by whispering, “I’m in the CIA” loudly enough for audience members asleep on the back row can hear him. It’s Harper who coaxes Ryan into joining the agency (“If you still want to serve your country, there’s a way”, he tells the former soldier), where he becomes a financial analyst working undercover at a Wall Street trading firm.

What follows is a kind of action accountancy thriller, with Ryan stumbling across a Russian plot to carry out a form of economic terrorism on US soil; a company called the Cherevin Group has been hiding vital accounts, which Ryan quickly concludes is part of a coordinated attempt to bring the value of the dollar tumbling through the floor. At the behest of the CIA, Ryan is duly dispatched to the company's Moscow HQ, where the big bad boss Cherevin (played by a glowering Kenneth Branagh, who also directs) awaits with several heavily-armed goons in tow.

For at least the first hour, Shadow Recruit moves briskly through its espionage plot, introducing Pine as a capable yet human lead who’s not yet at ease with his shift from desk job to active undercover duty. Ryan's first encounter with a dangerous assassin is viscerally handled, and if anything, the quiet aftermath is even better; Pine’s portrayal of his character’s shock and fear is perfectly modulated, and it’s refreshing to see an action hero reflect on his actions rather than simply spit out a glib one-liner and move on.

Pine's pairing with Costner, who plays the wise sage here, is similarly well conceived, and the moments where they simply sit on a bench and compare war stories are made compelling by their sparky, easy-going charisma.

Knightley, meanwhile, seems less at ease in a somewhat thankless suspicious love interest role; so convinced is she that Ryan’s seeing someone else behind her back that she flies to Moscow, breaks into Ryan’s hotel room and begins demanding questions of him. In fairness, Knightley acquits herself well in the scenes that come later, but her character isn’t exactly the most sympathetic in the film up to this point.

Branagh, meanwhile, makes for an entertaining if unspectacular villain. Like Knightley, he’s a victim of a script that tends to over explain when it could simply leave the audience to join the dots - an otherwise tense scene involving an energy-saving light bulb is undone to a certain degree by the distracting speech that goes on all around it.

Behind the camera, Branagh gives Shadow Recruit the slick pace and steely sheen of a good, high-tech thriller, and the film’s at its best when it’s at its least explosive; as it turns out, Chris Pine was born to sneak into buildings, or whisper about economic terrorism in the backs of vans. It’s towards the end that Shadow Recruit loses its way a little bit, becoming somewhat lost in a maze of generic chases and fight scenes.

The last act is an attempt, perhaps, at skewing the Jack Ryan franchise at a slightly younger audience, with Pine given more of a chance to regularly showcase his prodigious fighting, running and vehicle handling abilities than his predecessors. Shadow Recruit therefore pitches itself somewhere between the analytical intrigue of Tom Clancy’s novels and the gritty mayhem of the Bourne series.

As a result, the plot and set-pieces are slightly too formulaic to make Shadow Recruit a truly great thriller, but as an introduction to a new incarnation of Jack Ryan, it’s efficient and entertaining enough to make a new series of Pine-led Ryan films an enticing prospect.

Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit is out on the 24th January in the UK.

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was hoping for 4 stars at least but suppose i'll wait and see for myself, been waiting for a new JR film for a while now :)

An 'action accountancy thriller'?

"Quick! Balance those figures before the timer runs out!"

I saw this at a free screening and it wasn't worth the money!

So disappointing. It's plain dull (both the plot and the action). It's a pretty good cast (Keira K irritates though) but somehow they managed to make an utterly poor movie. No comparison with the Harrison Ford Jack Ryan films.

Given the film's box-office performance in the US, I hope you weren't too enticed by the prospect of a series.

I was bored by the trailer last week - looks just way too bland and cliched

Chris Pine isn't interesting enough to carry a film, and that includes the new Star Trek movies, of which i am not a fan (even though the rest of the cast is terrific, Pine's Kirk is boring, the direction unremarkable, and the writing preposterous).

Also, he has a giant head.

Its Mission Impossible without the Impossible, and that's why its end up being so forgettable.


i agree that chris pine is a rubbish kirk but zac quinto is also abominable as spock, there's just nothing to like about his character whatsoever, perhaps they'd both be better with improved writing and direction

It's fun to charter an accountant,

And sail the wide accountan-cy.

3 star thriller.... zzz

And the bad guys were .... CHRISTIAN TERRORISTS!

When was the last time Christians committed terrorist act? Anybody?

BTW, the film opened in America in FOURTH PLACE! Behind "Lone Survivor" on its fourth weekend, and a film about squirrels eating peanuts.

It's one thing to trade your integrity for a fat payout. But when one sells their soul and loses money at the same time, that takes a special kind of stupid.

The second I saw that the bad guys were priests, I understood that this was a profoundly stupid film. They literally might as well have made the bad guy Ronald Reagan's brain.

I really liked the non-action parts of this film. Branagh's directing and performance was great, and the origin story was well-handled. The action, however, is woefully shot and edited. Half the time I couldn't tell what was going on.

How about the never-ending schoolyard massacres in America over the last few years. One every two weeks since Sandy Hook, I believe. I have no doubt that a significant number of these terrorists are "Christian". Oh yeah and Anders Breivik???

What are you on about... or more pertinently, just what are you ON???

None of those killers you ascribed a religious affiliation to were church-going, Bible-believing, Christ-following individuals (surely the very definition of a Christian)... in fact, they were a total anathema to everything that Christianity stands for, both in their beliefs and in their actions and in their chosen lifestyles!

There is an unsurprising movement to indoctrinate the populace by portraying Christians as the aggressors when real-life shows quite the opposite... if you want to get into the Roman Catholic Church's shameful cover-up of clerical abuse, that's absolutely fair game, but to say that disturbed and/or evil young men who shot the place up were in any remote way 'Christian' then you and I are gonna have a major disagreement!

Just about EVERY major act of terrorism for the last 20 years has been committed by members of a religion... and it wasn't Christianity! It's just a pity that PC Hollywood and their guilty liberal consciences would rather not acknowledge or reflect that fact in their filmed output!

What am I on? What are you on? Total anathema to everything Christianity stands for? What a joke? The entire bible is about a dislike of the unlike. Anyone who is not a Jew or doesn't conform gets wiped out by God - the biggest meanie in the history of fiction. I would think this perfectly fits in with the message of that quaint little book.

All religion is bunkum. Why anyone still believes in some fairytales told by a few Bronze age shepherds is beyond me. When you get older you grow out of the need for imaginary friends. The secret is knowledge and discovery. The key is education. This universe is an amazing place. Marvel at its beauty.

It's time to grow up. Time to evolve.

You don't consider Anders Breivik a terrorist of any significance?????????

A terrorist? Yes. Significant? No, he was a failure of a person who decided to make a name for himself through mass murder. What was your point exactly?

Hmm, you kinda avoided my whole point of argument there with that unhinged little rant... you stated that the likes of Sandy Hook and the acts committed by Breivik were those committed by Christians when everything we know of them (from friends, family, and associates) paints the total opposite picture.

Nice try at obfuscation though.

I think my post was a little more reasoned than yours buddy. If anyone was ranting it was you.

If Breivik killing 70 people and injuring 150+ was not siginficant then you are deluded. He also was definitely Christian and committed these acts in the name of Christianity.

Before the wave of Muslim terrorism we are experiencing at the moment, the last major perpetrator of such acts was a little Christian group called the IRA.

HA! You think the neo-Marxist IRA were Christian, do you? You clearly have no idea whatsoever either about Christianity or Irish history...

"Myself and many more like me do not necessarily have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ and God."... that verbatim quote from Breivik pretty much rules out him being a Christian by definition, don't you think? What Breivik did was evil, but it wasn't "significant" in the sense of the worldwide wave of Islamic terrorism that has literally changed the course of world history.

Again, you still haven't addressed my original point... you said that Christian killers were responsible for shooting sprees, I've proven they weren't Christian to begin with... nice try though.

The only thing you have proven is that you are a raving Islamophobe not unlike Breivik.

The full quote reads : "If you have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ and God then you
are a religious Christian. Myself and many more like me do not
necessarily have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ and God. We
do however believe in Christianity as a cultural, social, identity and
moral platform. THIS MAKES US CHRISTIAN."

Whether religious or not, he definitely identifies as Christian.

We need to educate these people. Both sides of the coin. Whether Christian or Muslim. Enlightenment and reason are the only truth.

Like I said earlier, "Grow up".

So now I'm a "raving Islamaphobe" am I... how did you figure that, is there not an Islamic terror campaign happening around the world at present?

You just defeated your own argument by fully quoting Breivik, he admits he does not have a personal relationship with Christ or God... if you don't then you cannot - by definition - be called a Christian... Breivik is flat wrong in his belief that being a cultural Christian makes you a Christian, as are you in yours it would appear!

You meant that same Enlightenment that put over 30, 000 people under the guillotine in post-revolutionary France?

Now I'm done.

If your own full brother, or your son or daughter, or your beloved
wife, or you intimate friend, entices you secretly to serve other gods, whom
you and your fathers have not known, gods of any other nations, near at hand
or far away, from one end of the earth to the other: do not yield to him or
listen to him, nor look with pity upon him, to spare or shield him, but kill
him. Deuteronomy 13:7-12


Okay, just for you, Wizzbang dude, just one more time... to both educate and enlighten you (God knows someone needs to!);

That quote from Deuteronomy you gave was among other regulations given to the Israelites by God to keep them on the straight and narrow in advance of the Messiah, those extensive regulatory customs were effectively nullified when said Messiah came and fulfilled His ministry and purpose... not only does it no longer apply to the Jewish people, it NEVER applied to Gentiles to begin with!

Got all that now? Although what all that has to do with my ORIGINAL point that the shooting sprees were not committed by actual Christians - a point you STILL haven't addressed or disproved - is anyone's guess!

I would love nothing more than to continue this little tet-a-tet with you, Wizzbang, but I find it both an act of fulity and a waste of time to argue with someone who either doesn't know what he's talking about and/or already has his mind made up... you can't be reasonable with an unreasonable person.

But don't worry, you're still young and naiive, you'll learn one day...

What is this argument even about? It makes no sense. A fictional film has Christian terrorists apparently. But even if they were real they apparently wouldn't count as 'actual' Christians because they're terrorists? So where's the problem? You guys need to kiss and make up. Forgiveness is sort of a big deal.
Guess what; humans have been on the planet for a long time and people of all religions have done some nasty stuff. There's even been some pretty vile Popes back in the day. What does that tell us about the various religions? Not a lot. What does it tell us about humans? Some are not very nice. Most are.

>You don't consider Anders Breivik a terrorist of any significance?????????>

I consider Andrers to be a paranoid schizophrenia who happened to belong to a Lutheran Church. Do you consider the Lutherans to be a terrorist organization who encouraged and supported Breivik's murders?

Atheists murdered 100,000,000 innocent souls in the 20th Century alone.

> One every two weeks since Sandy Hook, I believe.>

You believe there has been a school shooting in America every two weeks? Just how stupid are you?

> I have no doubt that
a significant number of these terrorists are "Christian". >

I don't believe any of the shooters were devoted Christians.

> Oh yeah and
Anders Breivik???>

He's not American, last I checked.

>I think my post was a little more reasoned than yours buddy. If anyone was ranting it was you.>

Sorry, no. You wrote a hysterical rant.

>If Breivik killing 70 people and injuring 150+ was not siginficant then you are deluded.>

The murders were significant - as an act of terrorism, no. The Lutherans never encouraged Andy to kill people, and didn't support his actions.>

> He also was definitely Christian and committed these
acts in the name of Christianity.>

Are you saying that the Lutherans taught Andy to kill?

>Before the wave of Muslim terrorism we are experiencing at the moment,
the last major perpetrator of such acts was a little Christian group
called the IRA.>

Which pale to insignificance compared to the Reign of Terror by Atheists. 100,000,000 innocent souls butchered in the 20th Century alone.

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