Starring: Chris Pine, Keira Knightley, Kevin Costner, Kenneth Branagh, Lenn Kudrjawizki, Alec Utgoff, Peter Anderson, Elena Velikanova, Nonso Anozie, and more.
Directed by: Kenneth Branagh Written by: Adam Cozad and David Koepp Based on Characters Created by: Tom Clancy Cinematography by: Hans Zambarloukos Music by: Patrick Doyle
Premise: After being hurt as a marine overseas, Jack Ryan finds a new goal for his life when recruited by a CIA operative who wants to use his high skills in economics to look for terrorist funds in banking institutions. So when he unearths the possibility of an economic attack on the US, Jack goes to Russia to do an audit. That’s when he suddenly finds himself becoming a CIA operative, rather than a CIA administrative employee, because now people are trying to kill him. (Rated PG-13)
1) Acting – Thumbs Up: Chris Pine does a good job as the young, and eager recruit, Jack Ryan. Keira Knightley had good chemistry with Pine and gave the character of Cathy some nice little quirks to endear her to the audience. It was good to see Kevin Costner again. He did quite well as Jack’s CIA boss. While not given much to work with, Kenneth Branagh did good work as well, especially during his scenes with Keira – some great chemistry, good and later bad, between him and the character of Cathy as well.
2) Special Effects – Total Thumbs Up: The special effects team gave us a few explosions and lots of cool looking computer screen activity. The final fight area must have given everyone a hard time – as they dealt with running water to the knees. Looked good though. And the final explosion of the film looked great.
3) Plot/Story – Neutral: For what the film set out to do, it was too short. It’s only 105 minutes long. For some true character development and giving the audience a complicated plot, especially with spy thrillers, the requirement is at least 120 minutes, otherwise something won’t get the attention it needs. Unfortunately for the “Shadow Recruit,” the lack of proper time to tell the story ended up affecting several things.
Character development had many problems. There are four main figures in the film – Jack, Cathy, Thomas, and Viktor. Viktor’s motivations made little sense, especially with what we find out late in the film. And aside from very small glimpses at the rest of them, there’s not enough time to get to know any of them well. This unfortunately makes it harder to care about them. And if you don’t get the audience to care about your characters, the battle is already lost.
Spy thrillers normally are complex puzzles filled with misdirects, surprises, and are full of tension. This definitely was not the case here. From very early on, we pretty much know the whole plan, just not the specific details, so no real puzzle there, just a time crunch for the hero. The couple of places they did try to surprise us were so minor as to make them nonexistent.
In some of the little things, though, the story was ‘spot on’. Ryan’s face during the end of his first battle. His lingering stare at the tub as he steps out of the bathroom in a later scene. The adorable way Jack and Cathy hook their pinkies in the car as they try to sell that they’re a couple to the driver of the car. These lovely touches though only make the lack of fulfillment that much more sad. And the placement of the proposal flashback had a negative effect. Very odd.
4) Stunts – Total Thumbs Up: The film contains several fights and two chase scenes, and all were done well. The assassination attempt early on was brutal but awesome. It was the best of the lot.
5) Locations/Cinematography – Thumbs Up: Well, it was ‘thumbs up’ except for one area – and I was so shocked at the waste, it took some of the fun away.
When Jack reaches Russia and is being driven to his hotel, he passes several iconic Russian buildings. This is what one would figure to be a great opportunity to do some cinematography and show off these unusual sights, which work well at setting up the viewers to the new local and give the whole trip a foreign flavor. So I was shocked when the view outside Jack’s window was unfocused and rushed! It’s hard to envision what they could have had in mind at this point, unless they felt the audience is too familiar with these icons to be worth showing them off? Yet at other points in the film they made great use of buildings in the backgrounds to set mood or pin us to a location. So this made the blurred, unfocused scene make even less sense.
Conclusion: “Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit” is okay for a distraction, but fell far short of expectations. There wasn’t really much ‘spying’ or ‘thriller’ about the entire affair. Tom Clancy caliber it definitely was not.
Rating: 3.5 out of 5 (Hubby’s Rating: Worth Full Price of Admission)