Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit (12A)

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Review byMatthew Turner24/01/2014

Three out of Five stars
Running time: 105 mins

Serviceable, well acted and nicely paced thriller that delivers the requisite amount of explosions, car chases and suspense moments, though it's also a predictably by-the-book affair and is slightly let down by a bland central character and a handful of plot holes.

What's it all about?
Directed by Kenneth Branagh, Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit is a reboot of the Jack Ryan franchise that has seen Tom Clancy's character played by three previous actors (Alec Baldwin, Harrison Ford and Ben Affleck) in four previous movies. In this origin story, of sorts, Chris Pine plays Jack Ryan, a student at the London School of Economics who's compelled to join the Marines after 9/11, whereupon he's injured in a helicopter crash and subsequently recruited by CIA agent Harper (Kevin Costner) to work as a covert financial analyst, tasked with tracing funding for terrorist groups.

Ten years later, Jack is sent to Moscow to investigate some suspicious financial dealings by Russian businessman Cherevin (Kenneth Branagh) and uncovers a sinister terrorist plot that could have devastating consequences for the US economy. And as if that wasn't bad enough, Jack's oblivious girlfriend Cathy (Keira Knightley) shows up to surprise him at his Moscow hotel, learns that he's a CIA agent and swiftly finds herself co-opted into a scheme to distract Cherevin at a crucial moment.

The Good
Pine is fine as Ryan but he's somewhat hampered by the character's lack of a distinct personality; consequently he keeps the twinkly wise-cracking elements of his established screen persona to a minimum, which feels like a wasted opportunity. That said, Costner is on great form as Harper and Keira Knightley makes the most of her underwritten role as Cathy (and nails the American accent, to boot), while Branagh is suitably chilling as Cherevin and doesn't go too over the top with the Russian.

As a director, Branagh maintains a decent pace throughout (particularly in the swiftly handled opening) and pulls off a handful of effective suspense sequences whilst delivering the required amount of explosions, car chases and technical wizardry. He also makes a decent fist of the fight sequences and even manages to layer some believable emotion to what is effectively Ryan's first kill.

The Bad
Perhaps it's not surprising that the film has a thriller-by-numbers feel to it, since it was adapted from an existing script to fit the franchise reboot. However, the script can't disguise the fact that Ryan is a fairly bland character, despite Pine's best efforts – he's likeable enough but there's nothing distinctive about him.

On top of that, the script is riddled with plot holes, the most egregious of which is the attempt on Ryan's life as he arrives in Moscow, which seems shoe-horned in following test screening complaints of not enough action and sits clumsily with what follows.

Worth seeing?
Despite its flaws, Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit is a watchable thriller that ticks all the necessary boxes thanks to pacey direction and likeable performances.

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Content updated: 30/01/2014 14:28

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