2/23/14

JACK RYAN: SHADOW RECRUIT - REVIEW


Here's a movie so memorable it took me like a month to realise I hadn't even officially reviewed it yet...

Yes, Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit was this year's new attempt to bring the late Tom Clancy's character Jack Ryan to the screen in a big-budget blockbuster action thriller. The film was directed by Kenneth Branagh and stars Branagh himself as the big bad cartoon Russian villain while Ryan is portrayed by Chris "Captain Kirk" Pine.

The film opens on Jack Ryan studying economics in London before witnessing the 9/11 attacks on TV. This somehow leads him to become a top dog marine in the US army but, after a helicopter crash, he is soon dragged to hospital where he slowly but surely learns to walk again and regain his strength. Eventually, Kevin Costner's CIA agent shows up and hires him for a mission which would involve Ryan checking out if the Russians aren't maybe doing some shady deals with the markets, which, it turns out, they are. Ryan is sent to Moscow where he meets with Branagh's dodgy dude and the cat-and-mouse game begins. Keira Knightley attempts an American accent in this as Ryan's physician-turned-girlfriend and, once again, is about as convincing as Cate Blanchett trying out a French accent in The Monuments Men.

The action starts with a very Bourne Identity fight between Ryan and a rather large dude in a hotel bathroom and, from then on, the film's plot loses focus more and more as the scenes succeed each other. It's like the film was written in one go and the writer kept forgetting about earlier plot points and threads throughout. The movie keeps hinting at stuff that's never important or never there. First we think Branagh's character wants to take Jack Ryan and his girlfriend to dinner in a kind of classy Bond villain type of way, plotting something nasty post-conversation. But it turns out that Branagh knew nothing and was just being naive and unnecessarily friendly so Ryan obviously screws him over. A dog is introduced and disappears in the next shot, a villain's fancy knife is emphasised when it never becomes useful and Knightley suspects Pine to be having an affair with a gun at one point.

I wish I was kidding...

It's a very odd way to set up a thriller to say the least. As a character, Jack Ryan comes off as weak and more lucky than resourceful. His marines training rarely comes into play and when it does it's hardly convincing. If you thought Matt Damon's Bourne was a bit of a blank slate, wait till you meet this guy. Pine tries hard to make every scene work but he's just not given anything of value to work with. Knightley is, frankly, insufferable and her character feels altogether intrusive and far from essential. It's good to see Costner back but, again, he's given little to work with: each one of his scenes ending with him whispering something vague and/or inspirational in Pine's ear.

The only one to come out of this with some sort of dignity, funnily enough, is Branagh who not only makes his cartoonish character fun, albeit in a goofy kind of way, but does a good job at bringing forward a good-looking film. Worthy or not, Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit is a slick, visually pleasing thriller. The movie builds up to an unlikely climax and, by the end, you'll just be wishing you had been watching Skyfall again or any season of 24. Or Jack Reacher even! There's definitely something missing here. Every aspect of Shadow Recruit lacked a hook, something for us to get excited about because, as it stands, the story's hardly involving, the characters are two-dimensional and the whole thing is impressively forgettable.

Good thing I'm writing the review now before the film fades out of my brain entirely.

Overall, while Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit really is an underwhelming, not very well written, blink-and-you'll-forget-it type of movie, it's not offensively awful. It's definitely entertaining, Branagh knows how to keep the film's pace going despite everything, and it has its moments but this is definitely not a franchise starter so don't expect much more than a mindless yet harmless one night at the movies.

Uninspired.

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