Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit is the latest movie based on Tom Clancy’s decorated war hero turned intelligence analyst. This tale tells an origin story in which Ryan, an economics major in London, joins the Marines after 9/11, gets injured, and is later recruited into the CIA. It’s an entertaining yarn and I can think of worse ways to spend 106 minutes... but it’s entirely derivative and does nothing new.
We open on a young Jack Ryan (Chris Pine) at the London School of Economics. The date is September 11th, 2001 and after witnessing the horror on TV, the patriotic Ryan decides to join the Marines. After being injured in a helicopter attack, he faces a long road to recovery, ably assisted by a sweet medical student named Cathy Muller (Keira Knightley). He also attracts the interest of mysterious CIA official Thomas Harper (Kevin Costner), who makes him an offer of employment. Fast-forward 10 years and Ryan is working as a covert CIA analyst at a Wall Street stock brokerage where he’s tasked with monitoring financial activity that could hint at terrorist activity. He notices some hidden accounts that are all controlled by Russian tycoon Viktor Cherevin (Kenneth Branagh) and subsequently flies to Russia to investigate.
I’m betting some of this sounded very familiar to most of you. Take a large bowl, add one part The Americans, one part True Lies, two parts Mission: Impossible, three parts Casino Royale, and stir. It’s a pleasant movie and there’s nothing technically wrong with it, but it’s so forgettable that when I pitched the idea to Andrew, he confused it with Jack Reacher. And I almost labeled my Word file “Jack Ryan: Shadow Warrior”! Kenneth Branagh directs from a script by newcomer Adam Cozad and veteran David Koepp (who can do good work, but then turns around and does crap like Indy and the Crystal Skull). I’ve never read any of Clancy’s books so my only knowledge comes from the movies. However, from what I’ve gathered, this origin story is (somewhat!) faithful, despite not being based on any particular Clancy story. It's simply been updated for current events.
CSI effect. In other words, these things often take a while! But it’s always entertaining to see characters piece together clues and watch a scheme come together. Ryan uses a gun and his fists, but he uses his brains first and that’s something we need more of. Ryan is able to spot the decoy police van because of a streak of wet paint indicating it’s been recently dressed up. Coincidence? Yeah. But at this point in the movie, we buy it.
If I had paid 10 bucks to see this at the theater, I might’ve been disappointed. But it’s certainly worth a dollar rental at Redbox… and it’s also worth waiting to see if it pops up on Netflix (a lot of Paramount movies seem to show up after six months or so). It lacks the style and fun of Red October and the harder edge of the Harrison Ford movies, but it’s a decent (if unoriginal) thriller with some smarts. And unlike the Bourne movies, it dispenses with the dour “woe is me” routine. That’s worth at least a dollar!
“The Russians don’t take a dump without a plan.” (I couldn’t think of a memorable line from this movie, but it still applies!)