Director: Kenneth Branagh
Starring: Chris Pine, Kevin Costner, Kenneth Branagh, Keira Knightley, Colm Feore, Gemma Chan
Written by: Adam Cozad, David Koepp and (based on the characters created) Tom Clancy
Running Time: 105 mins
Release date: 24th January 2014
Tom Clancy’s reluctant CIA agent Jack Ryan first hit our screens back in 1990 when Alec Baldwin had to deal with a Scottish speaking Russian submarine captain (played by Sean Connery) in The Hunt For Red October. Three more movies (Patriot Games and Clear And Present Danger with Harrison Ford and The Sum Of All Fears with Ben Affleck) came. Now, 12 years after his last outing, Ryan has been given the reboot treatment for a new generation for film goers. Strangely, for a reboot, Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit feels very old-fashioned.
Jack Ryan is a student at the London School Of Economics when 9/11 occurs. So upset with the events, he joins the Marines and is injured while in Afghanistan. Having to learn to walk again, he is noticed by CIA operative Thomas Harper, who hires him to work in Wall Street and to watch for any suspicious monetary actions. This is exactly what happens, when funds from a Russian benefactor seem unusual. Heading to Moscow to meet businessman Viktor Cherevin, it soon becomes apparent that his activities are hiding something bigger which could bring down the world’s stock exchange as well as involve an act of terrorism.
Even though this is playing to an audience who may be unfamiliar of Jack Ryan and throws in set pieces that will keep action fans happy, this has the feel of a 60’s Cold War thriller. All the elements are there: meetings in public places to exchange information, a Russian baddie wanting to take over the world, a bomb with five minutes on the clock. Sure, it has that modern plot device of involving money and finance, so our villain isn’t holding the world to ransom with a nuclear bomb but crashing the market is a 21st Century equivalent.
Director Kenneth Branagh, who also casts himself as baddie, Cherevin, knows how to handle a genre film like this. After proving himself with Thor, he gives us a film that zips along at a speedy pace and it doesn’t out stay its welcome. Plenty of explanation at the beginning is soon replaced with car chases and fight sequences, courtesy of veteran stunt coordinator and second unit director, Vic Armstrong, even though the stunts scenes are surprisingly unremarkable and somewhat forgettable.
Branagh does have a trick up his sleeve with a superbly tense sequence in which Ryan has minutes to download files while Viktor tries to seduce Ryan’s fiancée, Cathy. It is grippingly handled as we cut from the dinner to Ryan as the seconds run down. It’s very similar to the printing scene in Ford’s Ryan picture Clear And Present Danger.
The performances are what you’d expect from this kind of film. Chris Pine, who after being Captain Kirk in the reboot of Star Trek, seems to be the go-to guy for reinventing screen characters. He’s perfectly acceptable as Ryan, although you do question if he would ever be a financial expert, he certainly passes in the action scenes. Branagh is having fun as Viktor, with his outlandish Russian accent, a love for history and occasional acts of violence. Nice to see Kevin Costner back in on form as mentor, Harper and Keira Knightley is convincing as Ryan’s love interest, Cathy.
It’s a perfectly entertaining piece of hokum and as a genre film, it does the job. With all the worthy award films around, it’s nice to see a big, exciting action flick slip into the mix and if you are looking for undemanding movie nonsense, then you might just have found what you’re looking for. It’s almost certain to be the first in a series and if that’s the case, I won’t mind spending a few hours watching it. No James Bond or Jason Bourne but it does the job while we wait for new films from those two super spies.