I share my thoughts on Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit, the action thriller 2014 film directed by Kenneth Branagh starring Chris Pine as Jack Ryan, with Kevin Costner and Keira Knightley.
I love a good action thriller movie, especially after seeing the Jason Bourne films at last earlier this year, and when I came into Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit I was expecting something similar. Fast paced action, an entertaining thrill ride starring some actors - Chris Pine (Star Trek), Kevin Costner (Man of Steel) and Keira Knightly (Pirates of the Caribbean) who I all had experience with before, and a director who gave us the mostly disappointing Thor film. It was an interesting mix, and I was curious to see how it turned out.
Whilst there are some positive things to say about this movie though, it is mainly negative. Yes, Shadow Recruit does have a big budget. Yes, it has some good actors. Yes, it may be entertaining. But that’s about it. Kenneth Branagh’s movie doesn’t have the hopes of starting a franchise that’s capable of rivaling Bourne, let alone Bond, which is a shame given the potential for another long running set of spy movies. But sadly, there’s nothing sustainable and you can’t really say that this movie is one of those ones that you’re going to remember what happens for more than a month at best. It’s the kind of film that joins countless of others – a decent popcorn drama, but no lasting impact.
The film itself follows Jack Ryan (Chris Pine) as he becomes a soldier following the events of 9/11, when he sees the towers go down whilst he is at a University in London. During a mission, the helicopter that Ryan is in is destroyed and he finds himself heavily injured. It’s at the hospital where he meets Cathy Muller (Keira Knightley), who’s working there. Shortly before being healed, Ryan joins up with the CIA after meeting with Thomas Harper (Kevin Costner) who’s impressed with his service record. 10 years later, Ryan soon finds himself as a covert CIA Analyst, who is thrust into the field when he learns of a secret Russian plot to crash the American economy.
That’s the basic jist of what happens in the plot, and it’s safe to say that it’s very formulaic. Nothing particularly memorable happens and there are a few fun action sequences but there aren’t really any standout scenes. The film’s poster on IMDB (I haven't used it here due to the fact that I prefer the featured) has a headline that reads “Trust No One”, but you never get the sense of paranoia that something like this should really be giving you. You always feel like Ryan’s in control and there’s never going to be any surprise ending that leaves you wondering if that really happened. It’s enough to keep you entertained while you’re watching it but when you give it more thought, you’ll be quickly disappointed.
I’m unfamiliar with the Tom Clancy novels and therefore cannot make any comment on whether or not it’s a faithful adaption, and I haven’t seen any previous movies based around the character either.
The characters themselves are decent. Kevin Costner plays Thomas Harper, as Ryan’s boss in the CIA, well, and Chris Pine delivers that boyish charm that Star Trek viewers will be familiar with. Sadly the biggest disappointment of this movie casting wise is Keira Knightley’s Cathy Muller, who rarely does anything apart from act as a damsel in distress for Jack to save and to make the villain (who is so bland I forgot his name and it hasn’t even been a full day after I’ve seen the film – and upon googling it turns out that he’s played by the director himself) look more threatening. So this is certainly not the film to watch if you’re looking for good female characters.
If you’re looking for a good thriller movie, go and watch the Jason Bourne Trilogy (and ignore Bourne Legacy) and give this one a pass. However, the film does a serviceable job at creating tension and keeping audiences on the edge of their seats despite it ultimately being predictable, so I can probably give this one a cautious recommendation. Indeed, I need to only point to the likes of Transformers: Age of Extinction and Divergent for worse films that have hit in the same year alone, and I’m sure there’s many more out there as well.