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Movie Review: ‘Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit’ tells an oddly familiar but gripping tale

Movie Review: ‘Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit’ tells an oddly familiar but gripping tale

Movie Review: ‘Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit’ tells an oddly familiar but gripping tale
January 16
15:52 2014

Preston Barta // Film Critic

Rating: 3.5/5

Harrison Ford, Alec Baldwin and Ben Affleck have all played the late Tom Clancy’s most famous fictional character, Jack Ryan. This year “Star Trek” (2009) star Chris Pine will take the baton, trying his hand as the heroic intelligence analyst.

“Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit” marks the fourth incarnation of the character and showcases the beloved Ryan in a different yet gripping way.

Departing wildly from the best-selling novels, David Koepp, best known for his script work on “Jurassic Park” (1993) and “Mission: Impossible” (1996), and first-time screenwriter Adam Cozard make the effort to detail Ryan’s formative years before his CIA recruitment.

In an extended prologue, Ryan is an undergrad student at the London School of Economics when the World Trace Center is hit in 2001, and subsequently a United States Marine stationed in Afghanistan two years later. While a Marine, Ryan sustains a bad injury after a heroic deed. This gets Ryan recognized by CIA handler William Harper (Kevin Costner), who employs and sends him to the heart of Wall Street (but don’t expect the crazy antics of Leonardo DiCaprio).


Chris Pine rides through the streets of Manhattan in “Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit.” Photo courtesy of Paramount Pictures.

Fast forward 10 years and we land in modern day, as the film imagines an international espionage plot driven by a Russian terrorist, Viktor Cherevin (Kenneth Branagh), attempting to destabilize the U.S. economy and trigger chaos within the nation. Ryan uncovers this truth and heads to Moscow to eliminate the threat.

If audiences can suspend their disbelief for the implausibility of Russians waging war on America – a story that would be more believable if it were set around the time Clancy wrote the novels – then “Shadow Recruit” is a worthy trip to the theater. It’s a vigorously directed suspense-thriller by none other than Branagh himself.

Branagh, who did an exceptional job of making a star out of ab-tastic charmer Chris Hemsworth in “Thor” (2011), clearly relishes the opportunity to stage a film within the genre of James Bond and Jason Bourne. Though his film does go a little Hollywood with its action at times, including a few car and motorcycle chase sequences, Branagh makes “Shadow Recruit” yet another riveting franchise opener.

Pine does a reasonably convincing job playing our titular hero, but the true surprise – but not really – is Costner. The veteran actor brings real gravitas to his supporting role, as does Keira Knightley as Ryan’s love interest, Cathy Muller. Even when she’s not fighting off pirates or battling the Kraken, Knightley manages to bring the glamour and delight we fell in love with in 2003’s “The Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl.” She and Pine make a compelling pair we’ll likely see in a sequel, if “Shadow Recruit” does well at the box office.

“Shadow Recruit” may not reach the heights of Bond, but it’s an exceptional espionage thriller that is far better than most of the flicks studios dump into theaters in January. Add that to some solid acting turns and you can be assured of a well-acted piece of popcorn entertainment that’s as good for summer as it is this time of year.

“Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit” opens at 9 p.m. in Denton theaters.

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