Jack Ryan is a character that action film fans are no doubt familiar with, having four previous films under his belt. SHADOW RECRUIT acts as a bit of a reboot for the series and a prequel, giving us a very young Jack Ryan and his recruitment into the CIA. The character itself has always been highly entertaining and one that is easy to get behind, whether he be played by Alec Baldwin, Harrison Ford or Ben Affleck. Those aren’t small shoes to fill and here we get Chris Pine in the lead, and he continues to carry the character as someone the audience can get behind. This is a fast paced action film, with a plot that feels very modern and it doesn’t aim to be the next James Bond or Jason Bourne, refreshing.
Here we meet Jack Ryan as a young man, who joins the armed forces and after a horrible accident that leaves him almost crippled, gets the attention of the CIA. Namely Thomas Harper (Kevin Costner) who recruits him to keep an eye on the happenings in Wall Street, to act as an analyst. Along the way, Ryan meets and falls in love with a Doctor Cathy Muller (Keira Knightley), who doesn’t know about her finances job and suspects he’s cheating. During a normal day on the job, Ryan uncovers suspicious activity in Russia, whose plans are bigger and much worse than he could have imaged.
The plot isn’t very complicated and it easily could have been, it is very straight forward and it does make sure through some easy exposition that the audience understands it well. The beginning feels a little rushed, but we need to get to the main storyline, it does establish everything that it needs to tell the story so it does work pretty well. Once we are thrown into it all, we do feel like a young and inexperienced Ryan. He isn’t someone who sees a lot of action, and his fear and adjustment feels natural and in turn makes the audience feel tension. This is all handled very well, and it is good to see a hero of sorts being out of his element he isn’t invisible from being hurt or even failing. That said however, this is the type of film we have seen before, some better and some worse. At least this is not as run of the mill as it could have been, in thanks to Kenneth Branagh with his direction of this.
Chris Pine fits into this role well, he filled those big shoes and very much had that fresh look about him. He’s a much younger Ryan than we have seen on screen before, and Pine tackles this aspect with his own unique approach. He handles the action scenes well, as well as everything else thrown at him. The strongest connection and chemistry he has in the film is with Kevin Costner who serves as a mentor and partner for him. These two could play father and son, they just have that naturally connection and it worked. Keira Knightley was quite good as Cathy, she shared the right amount of chemistry with Pine and was particularly good during a scene with the films villain Kenneth Branagh as Viktor Cherevin. Speaking of Mr. Branagh he not only made for a fine director but a fine villain as well. The character wasn’t exactly developed but the gist of it and his motivations were made clear and that is all that was needed.
This is a good fast paced action/thriller film, fine for a good afternoon’s viewing. Perhaps this film should have been made earlier, but Jack Ryan is a character that can exist now as easily as he could in the 90’s. The film has been updated to fit into the world we live in, while still creating fiction but capturing the fears people do have in regards to terrorism and the financial situation. The efforts here are very strong, it is a fairly decent and fun film, so mission accomplished. It may not have the staying power as THE HUNT FOR RED OCTOBER, but the potential was very much there.