wed 02/12/2020

Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit | reviews, news & interviews

Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit

Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit

Tom Clancy's gung-ho CIA operative bounces back in his fourth incarnation

Chris Pine as Jack Ryan: he's an economist, but he does stuff like this as well

Assuming you care at all, your favourite incarnation of Tom Clancy's industrious CIA agent Jack Ryan is probably Harrison Ford (Patriot Games, Clear and Present Danger). Before him came Alec Baldwin in The Hunt for Red October, and afterwards there was Ben Affleck in The Sum of All Fears.

Assuming you care at all, your favourite incarnation of Tom Clancy's industrious CIA agent Jack Ryan is probably Harrison Ford (Patriot Games, Clear and Present Danger). Before him came Alec Baldwin in The Hunt for Red October, and afterwards there was Ben Affleck in The Sum of All Fears.

But Affleck's Ryan was a dozen years ago, enough of a gap to give fresh-faced new boy Chris Pine (who has also rebooted Star Trek's Captain James T Kirk) some space to put his personal stamp on the role. This new episode is a kind of Ryan prequel, a story created by screenwriters Adam Cozad and David Koepp but using echoes of Clancy's characters and their po-faced government-spook milieu. For instance, Clancy's Ryan was a trained economist, but didn't study at the London School of Economics as Pine's character does. Clancy's Ryan survived a helicopter crash in the Mediterranean, but Pine's Ryan faces a fiery chopper-armagedddon in Afghanistan, where he's serving as a Marine. 

The writers, in cahoots with director Kenneth Branagh, have dutifully served up a true-blue flag-salutin' Ryan, who watches the 9/11 catastrophe on TV while he's a student in London and rushes back home to serve his country. Hence the torrid Afghan air crash and Ryan's subsequent relationship with his therapist in a military hospital, Cathy Muller (a frisky Keira Knightley, pictured right). It's while he's stoically battling to regain the full use of his limbs that he finds himself being observed by a broody-looking older guy in a Navy uniform, who bears a mysterious resemblance to Kevin Costner. His name's Harper, he works for the CIA, and his antennae tell him that young Ryan has the right Agency stuff. Pine's mix of doe-eyed idealism and steely toughness serves the role pretty well.

To exploit Ryan's knowledge of economics, Harper packs him off to earn a Government-sponsored PhD and then installs him in a Wall Street bank, where he's tasked with monitoring suspicious financial activity. And guess what - he unearths a bunch of dubious-looking accounts, and with uncanny speed deduces that the Russians have devised a fiendish plot to crash the US economy. 

Next stop Moscow, where Ryan meets the intimidating Viktor Cherevin. He's played with cold-eyed, compressed-lipped deadliness by Branagh himself, whose directorial alter ego has let him get away with a Russian accent perhaps left over from an old episode of Callan. Still, the idea that the Russians are back as America's number one enemy has a touch of old-world spy movie charm about it, and Branagh's treatment of his material throughout harks back to the days when characters used to punch or shoot each other rather than relying on a CGI holocaust occurring every 15 minutes (Branagh as Cherevin, below).

For instance, Ryan must survive a frenzied surprise attack by his supposed driver, played with rumbling enormousness by Nonso Anozie (alias Renfield from Sky Living's tuned-up Dracula), which involves the shattering of every object in his hotel room, including sinks and toilet bowls. Then there's much Mission: Impossible-style breaking and entering to be done before it all blows up in Manhattan.

It's a movie that keeps you engaged for its economical 105 minutes without ever threatening to challenge the best of Bond or Bourne. It's not quite smart or twisty enough, and the endgame trundles yawn-evokingly to a not-very-surprising conclusion. Still, with better scripts and a bit more mileage, Chris Pine might find he has another potboiling franchise to keep him in gainful employment.

The idea that the Russians are back as America's number one enemy has a touch of old-world spy movie charm about it

rating

Editor Rating: 
3
Average: 3 (1 vote)

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