Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit (3 stars)

Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit

The spy franchise reboot is at its best when examining the ethical complexities of the spy game

Kenneth Branagh is rapidly becoming the go-to director for setting up franchises. Having done a great job with Thor, his latest mission is to reboot the Jack Ryan character most successfully played by Harrison Ford but also inhabited by Alec Baldwin and Ben Affleck. The resulting film is a competent genre entry that delivers its thrills efficiently and in a more old-school manner than the recent Bourne or Bond films.

In Shadow Recruit Tom Clancy’s spy hero goes back to his roots as he decides to enlist for his country in the wake of 9/11 only to become badly injured in Afghanistan. It’s then that the CIA, in the form of Kevin Costner’s handler, comes calling and, 10 years later, Ryan (played by Chris Pine), is sent out on his first mission to thwart an attempt by a ruthless businessman (Branagh again) from collapsing the American economy and setting off a massive terror attack on US soil.

Given Branagh’s theatrical background and his passion for Shakespeare it’s little wonder that Shadow Recruit is at its best when examining the moral and ethical complexities of the spy game (best evidenced in the moments following Ryan’s first kill). It’s then that he also gives his actors, including himself, plenty to play with during the verbal sparring matches. But as proven with Thor, he can also handle the action, delivering a couple of decent set pieces.

Unfortunately the story lacks any real surprises and becomes bogged down in the tepid romance between Pine and Keira Knightley, which in turn becomes intrinsic to the ‘solving’ of the case. Coupled with Ryan’s wholesome, all-American Boy Scout values, what emerges is a less interesting hero and overall experience.

General release from Fri 24 Jan.

Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit Official Trailer #1 (2014) - Chris Pine Movie HD

Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit

  • 3 stars
  • 2013
  • US
  • 1h 45min
  • 12A
  • Directed by: Kenneth Branagh
  • Cast: Chris Pine, Kenneth Branagh, Kevin Costner, Keira Knightley, David Paymer
  • UK release: 24 January 2014

The origin story of Tom Clancy's spy hero Jack Ryan (Pine), showing his journey from wounded Afghanistan veteran to CIA rookie. Director Branagh deftly handles the moral and ethical complexities, but the script lacks surprises and gets bogged down in a tepid romance, and Ryan is too wholesome to be truly interesting.