Paramount: Please stop rebooting Tom Clancy’s Jack Ryan character. Including Chris Pine, there have been four Jack Ryans in the last 26 years and there hasn’t been a good one since the original: Alec Baldwin. It isn’t that the other actors were bad: Harrison Ford was great, Ben Affleck was OK and Chris Pine is also OK.
Here is the thing about Chris Pine, to me, he will always be the new big screen Captain James Tiberius Kirk. He is perfect in that role, it is hard to see him as a larger-than-life character like Jack Ryan. In Shadow Recruit, Pine is playing Kirk playing a spy. And this is where I have a problem with the film. Pine could have been playing a spy with a different name and this would have still been the same movie. By detaching the film from the books (unlike the previous films, this film is not based on any Tom Clancy book), Jack Ryan becomes a generic spy who happens to kind of share a history with the book’s main character.
The plot for Shadow Recruit reboots the Jack Ryan character, giving him an updated background. The basics are still there like how he broke his back during a helicopter crash. But, a lot has changed also. In the books he was schooled in the states, in the new backstory he was overseas for school. The main driving factor for him to join the Marines in the new backstory is 9/11. The way Ryan enters the CIA is also different with this new backstory. And I am not sure where James Greer went. For the actual plot, it is a bit convoluted. It involves an oil pipeline, an evil Russian oligarch, a sleeper cell in the US and a plan to devalue the US Dollar through stock selling and a bomb. By the end of the film, I didn’t understand it and didn’t really care anymore.
On the top billing for this film are Chris Pine, Kevin Costner, Kenneth Branagh and Kiera Knightly. Chris Pine does what he can with the role, but I just never bought him as Jack Ryan. There is a scene with Ryan figuring out the sleeper cell while on an airplane which came off really bad. It was Ryan pointing at computer screens asking for information and then him magically figuring everything out by talking it out. It was a painful and awkward moment of exposition.
Knightly is horribly miscast as Jack Ryan’s wife. It is not her fault, the script just does not give her much to do and relegates her to being jealous and being the damsel in distress. It does not help that she and Pine have no onscreen chemistry whatsoever.
Kevin Costner is fine as a high ranking officer in the CIA. Actually, I was never sure what Costner’s character was in the film, it was very ambiguous. Almost as ambiguous as why he was wearing knee and elbow pads in the last reel of the movie.
Kenneth Branagh does double duty as the director and villain of the film. Branagh has shown he can elevate mediocre films with his directing. He does so here. As for his character, it was a bit bland and basic – But, Branagh elevates the character and the villain is quite creepy and good.
Given all of this, the film is still fun to watch and the one thing that can’t be said about the film is that it is boring. This is one of those films that I would stop to watch if I saw it on TV – and I have seen it twice, the second time when it was streaming free on Amazon Prime video. This film, though, does not come close to The Hunt for Red October.