What makes Jack Ryan different from, say, Jason Bourne and that Mission Impossible fella is that Jack is just an average guy who stumbles into a life of espionage. Yep, aside from the military training, PhD, astute knowledge of economics, and frosty blue eyes, Jack Ryan is just another Joe Schmo. He secretly works for the CIA (his front is an analyst position on Wall Street) and uncovers suspicious trades/large holdings/misplaced funds from foreign investors. You know what? I’m not actually sure what he does. As soon as my brain hears number-talk it runs for cover in an unrelated thought. Brainless as I was for the remainder of this film, I still found it inexplicably enjoyable. The plot (something about Russia, terrorism, and boy scouts on field trips) is a little hard to grasp, but Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit is still a very watchable film, thanks to snappy action and bomb-defusing suspense.
This may not be the kind of film you have to understand to enjoy, but there are a few details which made me question the life of espionage. If I were ever secretly following someone in a car (an all-too-frequent occurrence in Jack Ryan’s world) I would seat myself in the most unassuming vehicle possible. A black sedan, perhaps. In Russia, the follower chooses a taxi. Close, but the glowing sign makes it a bit of a standout on the street. In America, Sneaky McSneezey camouflages himself in a white 1980s station wagon, complete with wood-paneled doors. Wouldn’t have been my first choice.
While the film isn’t short on extras to play these badass hide-in-the-car-until-you-get-stabbed roles, the real stars are Jack Ryan (Chris Pine), Cathy Muller (Keira Knightley), and Kevin Costner (Kevin Costner)…aka Thomas Harper: the guy who’s always watching. These are type-cast actors, and aside from Knightley’s American accent, you’re pretty much watching Captain Kirk stop a terrorist attack with Kevin Costner. Nonetheless, they are fun characters and during one particular kidnapping sequence I was indeed emotionally invested in the outcome. Kenneth Branagh, meanwhile, did double duty on this film as director and stone-faced Russian businessman. I pitied him, hated him, and kind of liked him. He was a very well-rounded character.
For an action movie it hit all the markers: no long talking scenes, not too much sappy romance, and a happy balance of 10% explosions, 20% car chases, 30% gun violence, and 40% hand-to-hand bruising. I must say I hate this new technique of filming combat scenes in extreme close-up – it’s like trying to take in the whole of the Eiffel Tower with your nose half an inch from the base. But the stunt-driving in Jack Ryan is a feature to be noted. As for this viewer, I note Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit as a 7/10.
This review can also be found at http://thecinemaid.net/2014/01/28/jack-ryan-shadow-recruit-2014/