Jack Ryan (Chris Pine – Star Trek) is a former soldier injured in the line of duty. Now a CIA analyst, he’s recruited by Thomas Harper (Kevin Costner – Dances with Wolves) to get evidence on a Russian businessman with ties to government (Kenneth Branagh – Much Ado About Nothing). Along the way he uncovers a covert plot to destabilise the US dollar. With time running against him, Ryan must stop the terrorist plot before the US stock market crashes and instigates a global crisis.
Jack Ryan is a character we have only really seen as an elder statesman and a seasoned professional. With Harrison Ford, Alec Baldwin and Ben Affleck all having tackled the role before, it’s time for a Hollywood reboot, this time focusing on a younger agent just finding his footing in the world. Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit gives a good attempt at breathing new life into America’s answer for James Bond and certainly provides thrills.
Chris Pine is the go-to guy for reboots having done stellar work on J.J Abrams Star Trek movies in the past. He brings a youthful exuberance to Jack Ryan that is magnetic onscreen. Pine is frequently the best thing in all of his movies and Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit gives him a strong platform to shape this iconic character in his mould. This is something he can’t truly do with Captain Kirk, who will always walk in the shadow of William Shatner. The Jack Ryan character doesn’t have the same level of attachment so as a performer he’s more able to creatively experiment with the role.
The supporting cast are an interesting bunch with Kevin Costner stealing every scene as Ryan’s handler Thomas Harper. It’s great to see him back in blockbuster movies as Costner has always had a charm that’s translated well in action films. Keira Knightley is an odd choice as the love interest though. She’s perfectly fine and can do this role in her sleep but as an actress I can’t see what this role adds to her already impressive CV. On the flip-side, there were surely more unexplored and less familiar actresses they would have been a better fit here – especially to launch the franchise in a fresh direction.
The always-reliable Kenneth Branagh is great as both the token villain of the piece and as the film director. Having re-established himself after Marvel’s staggeringly entertaining Thor, Branagh brings his trademark professionalism and eye for detail to the table and it’s just a joy seeing him back on the big screen regularly. Personally I would have preferred to see him return for the Thor sequel rather than tackle this by-the numbers action project given the mammoth success he achieved with Marvel. His villain may be clichéd but Branagh knows how to get maximum output from his role as Viktor Cherevin and clearly has fun with the devious character.
Jack Ryan is an old fashioned but nevertheless entertaining action yarn that reboots the seminal character with aplomb. With a sharper script, a second adventure with Mr. Ryan could certainly be a fun ride to take. In Chris Pine they have a name to carry them into the future and if they bring back Kevin Costner, we could have a brand new franchise to enjoy. For now, take Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit for what it is… an enjoyable romp with a solid cast that provides good but forgettable thrills.