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With: Chris Pine, Keira Knightley, Kevin Costner, Kenneth Branagh, Lenn Kudrjawizki, Alec Utgoff, Peter Andersson, Elena Velikanova, Nonso Anozie, Seth Ayott, Colm Feore, Gemma Chan
Written by: Adam Cozad, David Koepp, based on characters created by Tom Clancy
Directed by: Kenneth Branagh
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for sequences of violence and intense action, and brief strong language
Running Time: 105
Date: 01/17/2014

Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit (2014)

2 1/2 Stars (out of 4)


By Jeffrey M. Anderson

Tom Clancy's Jack Ryan character returns to the screen for the fifth time, although he's taken down a couple of pegs so that 13 year-old viewers will be potentially interested. The new movie is not a sequel, and not actually based on any of Clancy's books; it's a reboot, and an origin story, so that Jack can be younger.

Then, rather than casting an fascinating, charismatic leading man to fill the shoes of previous Ryans (Alec Baldwin, Harrison Ford, and Ben Affleck), the filmmakers merely settled on a good-looking guy who has been in a couple of hits, Chris Pine.

In the beginning, it flashes back to Ryan as an economics student in London during the 9/11 attacks. He volunteers for the Marines and is shot down. He recuperates with the help of a pretty med student, Cathy (Keira Knightley), and CIA agent Thomas Harper (Kevin Costner) shows up to recruit him. He will go undercover, working on Wall Street, looking for bad guy bank accounts. In the present day, he finds one.

Overall, Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit is more of a mixed bag than a total letdown. The good things about the movie include Kenneth Branagh as the evil Russian banker right out of the 1980s, named Viktor Cherevin; he chews and steals scenery better than any Clancy villain since Sean Connery in The Hunt for Red October.

Another good thing is the script, co-written by that reliable pop veteran David Koepp (Jurassic Park, Mission: Impossible, etc.). He sprinkles in enough lines about Turkish pipelines affecting the Russian economy to make the movie sound semi-intelligent.

But then the bad stuff comes in. Branagh, who also directed, seems bored by all the pyrotechnics, chasing, shooting, running, and jumping scenes, and shoots them all in a colossal jumble. Everything comes down to a single terrorist attack, consisting of one guy. The showdown fight between the hero and the villain -- both wearing black -- is a pathetic, wobbly blur.

Happily, Branagh -- an Oscar-nominated Shakespearian -- is much more interested in actors, and he films some nice moments between characters, such as a tense dinner designed to be a ruse. A moment with Cherevin and the kidnapped Cathy is filmed in a long close-up, Cherevin about to torture her with a lightbulb in her mouth, his face glaring a mere inch from hers.

Alas, these moments of inspiration are too few, and Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit feels like it should have instead applied for a desk job.

Best Buy Co, Inc.