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Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit - Review

Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit

Review by Rob Carnevale

IndieLondon Rating: 3 out of 5

TOM Clancy’s Jack Ryan character may only have existed in cinema form since 1990’s The Hunt For Red October but Chris Pine is now the fourth actor to have played him – and the first since 2002’s The Sum Of All Fears.

Whether that constant re-imagining explains why Ryan has not yet managed to establish himself firmly among cinema’s most elite spies is debatable. But so too is his boy scout quality, which renders him less interesting than Bond’s ruthless womaniser or Bourne’s amnesia ridden, conflicted former assassin.

It’s a problem that Kenneth Branagh goes a little way towards addressing in Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit, which reboots the franchise in solid if not entirely spectacular fashion.

An origins story not based on one of Clancy’s books, but reverential towards his spirit, the film follows Ryan (Pine) as he enlists to serve his country in the wake of 9/11, gets injured in Afghanistan and is then enlisted into the CIA by a handler (Kevin Costner).

Ten years later he’s sent to Moscow to prevent a vengeful businessman (Branagh again) from collapsing the US economy and launching a terrorist attack on American soil while also trying to protect his relationship with an increasingly suspicious girlfriend (Keira Knightley).

Branagh’s film opens well and is at its most interesting when exploring the moral and ethical nature of Ryan’s world, best exemplified following his first kill, but also hinted at in Branagh’s villain and Ryan’s verbal confrontations with him.

It also delivers the set pieces efficiently, if in a more old school manner than more recent Bourne or Bond action. Having impressed on a blockbuster spectacle level with Thor, Branagh does so again here.

But by also having to embrace the wholesome, all-American family values of the Ryan character too, his film also feels a little blunt around the edges. The romantic element with Knightley is tepid, especially when it feeds into the actual spy elements. And this, in turn, pushes Branagh’s much more interesting ogliarch to the sidelines, even rendering him toothless.

Like its name suggests Jack Ryan is at its most compelling when existing in the shadows. It just needed to spend a little more time residing there.

Certificate: 12A
Running time: 105mins
UK Release Date: January 24, 2014