Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit

Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit photo starrating-3stars.jpgThe fifth in the Jack Ryan series, stars Chris Pine as a financial analyst who studies market patterns that would indicate terrorist activity. Um ok. Action thriller is different from other entries in that the plot is not based on a pre-existing book by Tom Clancy. That gives the screenwriters carte blanche to do what they want with the narrative. The irony is this spy picture is thoroughly by-the-numbers with very little to distinguish itself from others of its ilk.  In other words, the James Bond and Jason Bourne franchises have nothing to worry about.

The cast is far too good for the average script. Actor Chris Pine makes for a handsome, but bland, Jack Ryan. He’s not as charismatic as Captain Kirk in the Star Trek reboot. Kevin Costner underplays nicely as his CIA handler – a part James Earl Jones and Morgan Freeman have exemplified in previous installments. Kenneth Branagh who also directs, saves the plum role of “the villain” for himself. He does a nifty Russian accent as Viktor Cherevin. I am a big Keira Knightley fan and her presence in this was initially greeted as a blessing. The sad thing is, she really isn’t given much to do. Essentially reduced to playing “female love interest” her talents are kind of wasted here. Her bit is more deserving of some rising starlet than an Oscar nominated actress of Knightley’s caliber. She still shines brightest in period costume dramas.

With that said, I will somewhat contradict myself when I contend that the best moment in the entire film involves her. The scene occurs when Viktor takes Jack and his fiancée Cathy Muller to dinner at a fancy restaurant. Cathy demands her husband-to-be walk off his drunken stupor after the couple feign a lovers’ spat. “This is geopolitics, not couples therapy.” Now Cathy must keep Viktor occupied in conversation by charming him. Apparently he has a weakness for women with odd American accents. Meanwhile, this allows Jack to infiltrate Viktor’s office so he can download his computer files. The segment includes a thrilling level of tension sorely missing from the rest of the movie.

Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit is an efficient, serviceable thriller. A decent watch, but it’s not essential viewing. Our hero is hired as a covert operative on Wall Street. While there the undercover CIA agent unearths a nefarious foreign plot to shatter the U.S. economy. Making the Russians the baddies is a refreshing retro throwback to Cold War movies from 1985–1991. The production is polished. The story is stylish, well photographed and speeds by in a brief 105 minutes. The tale is entertaining enough, but it’s pretty formulaic nonetheless. Perhaps the highest praise I can bestow the film is that it’s an improvement over the character’s last appearance, The Sum of All Fears in 2002.

27 Responses to “Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit”

  1. Nice review. Mine should go up tomorrow and we share some of the same thoughts. Overall I think I did appreciate it more than you did and saw a few things I had a lot of fun with. It’s certainly nothing new in terms of story, but it was a good time for me.


  2. We’re pretty much in agreement here Mark. I like Knightley in some films but here she seems to be out of her elements and even if that’s intentional, I still think she’s miscast.

    “… the James Bond and Jason Bourne franchises have nothing to worry about.” Ahah, very true! Pine is not bad but at the same time he didn’t inject new life the way he did to Capt. Kirk and to varying degree, the way Damon & Craig did to Bourne & Bond franchise, respectively.


  3. GaryLee828 Says:

    I cannot stand Chris Pine, so I definitely won’t be seeing this. Not only does it look dull and predictable, but Chris Pine simply isn’t leading man material. I guess that’s why it opened up to a whopping $17 million, not even getting half of the new Kevin Hart movie.


    • I’ve never viewed box office as an indicator of quality, but please do enjoy Ride Along!


      • GaryLee828 Says:

        LOL, I won’t be going to see “Ride Along”. I was just pointing out that Kevin Hart brought in more than double the money as Chris Pine. I know “Star Trek” found success, but people didn’t see that b/c of Chris Pine; fans of the series poured in to watch in spite of who played Captain Kirk. I cannot recall Chris Pine adding value to any film he’s been in. Not only is he dreadfully dull and lacks charisma, but he also dishes out a total douchebag vibe.

        I don’t want to see Ride Along, but Kevin Hart’s career looks like it’s about to surpass Chris Pine’s. With the exception of Star Trek, none of his films have been a success at the box-office and while I do agree that box-office stats are not a fair measuring stick in terms of the quality, I think Pine’s films have failed so often b/c they look like crap. I just don’t like or respect Chris Pine b/c it’s annoying that he gets roles that more talented actors should land. He was just born into the business.

        Denzel Washington has probably been my favorite actor since 2000 and I wanted to watch “Unstoppable” but I just couldn’t bring myself to watch it since Chris Pine was in it. Think about Bradley Cooper. Cooper is a decent actor, but he’s not the best, but there’s a reason people are drawn to his movies – b/c he comes across genuine and endearing as a person and those attributes come across in the characters he plays. But Pine comes across just the opposite, and I think it shows in his characters, as well.

        And if I ever do happen to see Ride Along, I bet it’s better than Jack Ryan Shadow Recruit. lol. 🙂


  4. Good review Mark. It’s nothing spectacular, but definitely worth the watch being that it is January after all and we don’t usually get quality-like films released at all.


  5. Nice review Mark. Pretty much all the reviews I have seen of this are pretty middling, but I am still keen to see it. I have to say I am a sucker for a throwback Russian villain. And as strange as it is to say, a film like this that is only 105 minutes, is a major attraction these days. Everything else is bloated to breaking point.


  6. Nice review Mark –

    You know that there is a down-side to the film being only 105 minutes, and that is – Ryan solves, figures out, gets engaged etc all so easily and quickly. Now while I do agree that many films are excessively padded, this one might have put in some scenes were Ryan is stumped and has to go back to the drawing board (or computer) for another look. What I’m saying is that shorter isn’t always better.

    To your credit – you didn’t say that – in the previous comment you said it was something ‘novel’. I think we can agree on that.


  7. I haven’t read any Jack Ryan books (should I?), nor have I read anything by Tom Clancy (again any recommendations?). Though I’d be willing to look at any of the movies any day, just as movies, if that makes sense. I have The Sum of All Fears on DVD and have not once watched it.

    All I can say is I can’t believe Kenneth Branagh, of all people, directed Shadow Recruit. Though he’s a fine director (and actor) so I’ll have to see it eventually.

    Good review as always Mark!

    I’m curious…approximately how many reviews have you written?

    Envoyé de mon iPhone



    • Start with The Hunt for Red October by Tom Clancy. It’s the first book in the Jack Ryan Series. Then watch the movie. HUGE hit in 1990.

      I’ve written close to (but not quite) 800 reviews.


  8. Nice review Mark. “Serviceable” is exactly right.


  9. I also agree with serviceable. I am going to go ahead and say that January 2014 is one of the worst months in film history when it comes to going to the theaters. Devils Due, I, Frankenstein, Legend of Hercules, and the list goes on. Point I am getting at is that Jack Ryan seems to be the only decent film coming out of it. Other than having an extremely generic ending, it does its job.


    • I won’t deny that January 2014 will not be remembered for its films. But worst in history? Remember last year we had A Haunted House, Texas Chainsaw 3D, and Movie 43. This month is always notoriously bad.


      • Okay, you are right, just started reviewing recently, so the fact that all that trash was released in January last year slipped my mind.

        I just fail to understand how we are in 2014, yet have films that should go straight to DVD or into the budget bin raking in box office cash.


  10. This reviews pretty much sums up how I expected this one to pan out. Not sure I’ll get around to seeing this at cinemas but I may give it a rental when it’s available. Nice review Mark.


  11. I kind of agree with the majority of the reviews above. The movie was “serviceable”. Just good enough to enjoy, but not great. I happen to like Chris Pine, but maybe as a side kick . It was short enough for me to enjoy it. 3 stars.


  12. Great review, Mark. I completely agree. This is fun enough, but it is far from memorable.


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