Saturday, February 01, 2014

Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit

Year: 2014
Director: Kenneth Branagh
Cast: Chris Pine, Kevin Costner, Kenneth Branagh, Keira Knightley

Plot: Jack Ryan, a young analyst working for the CIA, discovers a Russian plot to cause a second Great Depression in the States.

Review: Jack Ryan is a well known literary hero created by Tom Clancy who has enjoyed various incarnations in Hollywood over the years. For those not in the know, he's a CIA guy who always has to stop some terrorist plot or get involved in something related to the Cold War, which was the era when he was created.

This particular Jack Ryan film is a bit of both, as it features Russians and a terrorist attack. The story begins with a brief backstory on Ryan, as he joins the CIA after recovering from a near fatal helicopter crash in Afghanistan. He's recruited to take a cover job in Wall Street monitoring monetary activities while keeping his double life a secret from his doctor girlfriend Cathy. He subsequently discovers a plot by the Russians to launch an attack that if successful, will severely devalue the dollar and send the US into another Great Depression.

The plot itself isn't too shabby, but the execution of the film is somewhat tame. Kenneth Branagh, who also plays Russian antagonist Viktor Cherevin, directs the film well enough, except when it comes to making it stand out. The script by Adam Cozad and David Koepp would have been more effective if they actually gave the film some genuine suspense. Most of the stuff that happens is rather predictable, worse still the bad guys don't seem to be very efficient as Ryan figures them out without trying too hard. The audience is also expected to suspend their disbelief a few times, especially when Cathy willingly volunteers to help Jack on a mission. In other aspects, Branagh paces the film briskly but unlike Thor (which he also directed), the fight scenes looked too shaky.

Performance wise, Chris Pine is believable enough as Ryan, he's always had the perfect look of a young action hero in the making, and he pulls it off here. Branagh chews the scenery as Cherevin, but rarely gets to do anything intimidating which makes his role somewhat tame. Kevin Costner plays Ryan's superior Harper the same way you would expect him to, it's predictable but it works. Keira Knightley loses her British accent nearly effectively to play Cathy, but her role is rather dull, not that it's her fault really.

As an action thriller, it could have been worse, for sure. But in the world of Bourne and Mission: Impossible movies (which this film seems to borrow a lot from), it needed something extra to be special, and overall it was just mediocre.

Verdict: it's decent but very forgettable. (3/5)

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