Monday, January 20, 2014


The latest adventure concerning the late Tom Clancy’s Jack Ryan character/hero can very much be compared to an airport-novel; those short and sweet paperbacks packed tight with worldwide espionage and double-crosses and designed for the sole purpose of passing the time away. JACK RYAN: SHADOW RECRUIT is successful in that, and very little else.
Young Jack Ryan (Chris Pine) is recruited by CIA operative Agent Harper (Kevin Costner) to uncover and thwart a worldwide financial terrorist plot by the evil Russian Viktor (Kenneth Branagh). Ryan’s work leads him on a global trek, where he is joined by his fiancé Cathy (Keira Knightley).

JACK RYAN: SHADOW RECRUIT offers all of the cliché elements of any given spy story written and filmed over the past fifty years; rich bad guys with immense power, global-decimation schemes, clandestine meetings in movie theatres, the sly passing of envelopes and high-tech surveillance inside disguised vans..etc. While the setup and execution of all of these elements is serviceable enough, the film never gets past any of these familiar pieces and parts and instead latches onto them. The plot is paper thin (save the world), and the characters have absolutely no personal obstacles or storylines to deal with; everyone is exactly the same as they were when the film started. The big-bad villain is also cliché and nothing new; just a rich man with an axe to grind who kills off his own people when they don’t get the job done for him.
Kenneth Branagh, who stars as the dull bad guy, also directs and feels completely out of his element. Although the interaction between characters is decent enough, the action scenes are shot way too tight with way too much goddamn shaky-cam. The buildups to big events have very little tension, and the characters, when faced with something emotional, seem to overcome things in the blink of an eye.

Chris Pine doesn’t stink up the joint, but he doesn’t invade any new territory either. He does everything that is asked of him, and doesn’t go any further. Keira Knightley feels lost amongst everything, and she has very little chemistry with Pine…leaving their romance tough to buy into. Kevin Costner is his usual brilliant Costner-self, and Branagh turns in the best performance even though his character is a disappointing snore.
The finale is bit predictable and can be seen from a mile away, as again, SHADOW RECRUIT closely follows an espionage-story template and seldom deviates. There is enough here to have a decent time, but lacks any sort of emotional punch or likeable characters to root for. SHADOW RECRUIT is very much like an airport-novel; a nice little time-waster which is forgotten about the minute you walk through the gate.


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