Review: Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit

Review: Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit

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Another year, another Tom Clancy adaptation, this time it’s Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit. Carmen Paddock has the review.

 The post-awards release season typically sees an influx of ‘guilty pleasure’ films – ones of varying quality but all equally determined to bring in the crowds. This year sees a franchise reboot as spy thriller Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit launches Chris Pine into the role of Tom Clancy’s CIA analyst. The delightful B-movie follows Ryan, an extremely clever Marine-turned-secret agent, through his adventures saving the entire American economy from the schemes of corrupt Russian financiers.

jack rayn
Image Credit: Paramount

 After Ryan sees television footage of the Twin Towers’ collapse, he leaves the London School of Economics to join US forces in Afghanistan. His service earns the attention of CIA operative Thomas Harper (Kevin Costner) and lands him a post working undercover on Wall Street. Some suspicious accounts in Russia pique his interest, and one flight to Moscow later the predictable action movie formula is in full swing: shady figures, glamorous offices, secret identities, and a tremendous showdown with the clock ticking. Despite the post-Cold War setting, the Russians still make quite intimidating foes.

 Pine does not stretch himself as an actor, but he makes his secret agent thoroughly likable. He balances Ryan’s incredible intelligence (and killer action sequences) with a down-to-earth quality, creating an unrealistically perfect yet sympathetic hero. His nemesis Viktor Cherevin, the mastermind behind the plot, is played by none other than director Kenneth Branagh. The Shakespeare veteran’s Russian accent and stoic demeanor create a wonderfully chilling if stereotypical villain. Branagh’s direction fits the style flawlessly and features several smart camera reveals, and despite having a prominent role he never overindulges in camera time.

 A side note: from a feminist perspective, Jack Ryan is quite a success in the realm of action films. Cathy Muller (Keira Knightley), a medical doctor in her own right, is no prize at the end of the battle, no trophy for our dashing hero. She is the girlfriend throughout and, once involved in Ryan’s mission, actively contributes to his success. Furthermore, she is the only woman Ryan sleeps with (in implied sequences – not even explicitly shown) over the course of the film. It might not be revolutionary, but it is a welcomed and refreshing change from Bond-esque chauvinism.

 Jack Ryan never pretends to be more than what it is – an unoriginal but entirely entertaining action thriller. As such, it successfully fulfills its role as an enjoyable midwinter escape.

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