JACK RYAN: SHADOW RECRUIT: 2 STARS. “nothing fancy… and also nothing Clancy.”
“Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit” is nothing fancy… and it’s also nothing Clancy.
As the first of the Ryan movies not based on a Tom Clancy novel it feels generic. There is the usual spy story intrigue, exotic locations and tense scenes but what the movie doesn’t have is the ear for dialogue of the other films in the series. When you have a senior CIA agent muttering the line, “This is geopolitics, not couple’s therapy,” it’s hard to know whether this is a satire of spy films or just badly written.
As played by Chris Pine (taking over from Alec Baldwin, Harrison Ford and Ben Affleck) CIA field agent Ryan discovers evidence of an upcoming terrorist attack. Leaving his jealous girlfriend (Kiera Knightley) behind, he is sent to Moscow to continue the investigation by Intelligence boss Agent Harper (Kevin Costner).
Dodging bullets and bad guys, he encounters Viktor Cherevin (Kenneth Branagh, who also sits in the director’s chair) an evil businessman with a plot to destabilize the global economy and create the “second Great Depression” in the United States.
Remember when Kenneth Branagh used to make movies like “Henry V” and “Hamlet”? I do too, which makes me feel a little empty inside when I watch something like “Shadow Recruit.”
This is a case of a director with no affinity for the material. It’s almost as if this was pieced together by people who had seen a lot of spy movies, but didn’t really understand them.
Like Branagh’s “Thor” movie, the action is muddled and so frenetically edited it’s often hard to see through the flashes of light on the screen to see who is punching who. A little clarity in those sequences would have gone a long way to make up for the ridiculous dialogue and under developed characters.
Branagh plays Cherevin with all the nuance of a Bond villain. He’s ruthless, flamboyantly accented and super smart. Smart enough to bring down the global economy but not smart enough, apparently, to see through Chris Pine’s terrible drunk act near the climax of the film.
Knightley is the movie’s third headliner, but you have to wonder why she would accept a role that gives her little to do except complain and go all moon faced over Ryan.
Then there’s Pine, who heroically anchors the “Star Trek” series but comes off here as a little too bland to play an international man of mystery.
“Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit” is the first Ryan movie after a twelve-year break. It wasn’t worth the wait.