Without a Tom Clancy novel backing him up, Jack Ryan falls flat on his face
By Richard Crouse and Steve Gow Reel Guys – Metro Canada
Steve Gow is in for Mark Breslin
SYNOPSIS: Ex-Marine Jack Ryan is back on screen after a twelve-year break, but this time he looks like Captain Kirk. 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 suspicious 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) an evil businessman with a plot to destabilize the global economy.
Richard: 2 Stars
Steve: 2 Stars
Richard: Steve, 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 quite generic. There is the usual intrigue and a couple of tense scenes but what the movie doesn’t have is the ear for dialogue of the other Ryan films. 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.
Steve: It certainly wasn’t inspired writing, that’s for sure. I get the feeling the genesis of this film came straight from a money-angling producer who somehow decided to attempt reviving a 12 year old movie character like Jack Ryan would be better business sense than creative endeavor. The problem is, even if you look at the previous incarnations of the CIA operative – he’s pretty indistinct. He’s no James Bond. And vanilla Chris Pine doesn’t add much to that blandness.
RC: True, but I really think that this is a case of a director with no affinity for the material. It’s almost as if the movie was pieced together by people who had seen a lot of spy movies, but didn’t really understand them. Add to that action scenes 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.
SG: Absolutely. I had a hard time making sense of the action sequences since they were filmed with shaky handheld cameras and in what seemed to be extreme close-up. Perhaps filmmaker Kenneth Branagh was focusing less on direction and more on playing the Russian antagonist in the film, which he does effectively enough in spite of the formulaic dialogue. Keira Knightly too, in the pretty unremarkable role of Ryan’s unwitting operative wife is fine – although I’m not sure what her attraction to the part was.
RC: Knightley was fine, but I thought Branagh played 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.
Steve: True enough. And that probably exemplifies this film’s biggest flaw. As much as the action is set at the pace of an over-caffeinated ferret, this thriller is pretty much boilerplate material with any subtle intricacies simplified for the sake of the neatly-capped plot. In the end, it’s a pretty plain spy flick that’s easy to unravel.