Tuesday, January 28, 2014

(Movie Review) Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit: Rebirth of a Cinematic Icon or Generic Procedural?

Is Jack Back?
    Tom Clancy's Jack Ryan character is one of the most interesting action characters in film because, guess what? He isn't much of an action character.  Anyone familiar with the character of Dr. Ryan, whether through Clancy's books, Alec Baldwin's performance, Ben Affleck's performance, or most famously Harrison Ford's portrayal of the character, knows that he is a thinking man's hero.  No matter how much the odds are against him always, Ryan always seems to outsmart his foe.  When I first saw the trailer for Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit from the man who brought us Thor, director Kenneth Branagh, I saw more Ethan Hunt, John McClane, and James Bond in Chris Pine's portrayal than I did Jack Ryan.  So were the sum of all my non Jack Ryan fears realized or did Branagh actually make a pretty decent Jack Ryan film? Find out after the break....

This isn't your parents Jack Ryan

    Make no mistake; Chris Pine is not the weakness of this film.  In fact, Pine makes a very convincing Ryan, often pondering his next move as well as Harrison Ford did in his best days as Jack Ryan.  The problem comes when Kenneth Branagh tries to evolve Jack Ryan into something more modern that mainstream audiences will enjoy.  The results catapult the Ryan character into a prime time procedural that really does not even compete with the best episode of CSI or Person of Interest.   

Branagh hurts the film two fold: as it's Director and it's primary villain 

    The best way to describe Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit is generic, and that does not just apply to the procedural like story.  The film becomes overly generic when the procedural format is surrounded by the most mundane elements.  The biggest one of all comes in the form of the film's biggest problem director Kenneth Bragnagh, who elects to play the films primary classic cold war villain Viktor Cherevin.  Branagh delivers a  performance that couldn't even hold up in the midst of the 1980's.  While the rest of the supporting cast, Keira Knightly as Jack's girl Dr. Cathy Muller and Kevin Costner as Tom Harper are decent, they really add little to the film, often serving as tropes to past Ryan films rather than bringing anything new to their roles.

As much as I love Kevin Costner, in this case he's no James Earl Jones!

    As weak as certain elements of Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit are, the film as a whole serves as a decent thriller.  However, to cinephiles and Clancy aficionados to whom the the Jack Ryan names holds a lot of weight, there is inevitably bound to be a bit of disappointment as they return home from the theater.  As a fan of Ryan myself I chose to leave the theater with a gleam of optimism that Paramount has found their best Jack Ryan since Harrison Ford.  Unfortunately, if  box-office returns are any indication (Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit has only made $20 Million as of this review on a $60 million dollar budget) we may not be seeing Dr. Ryan in theaters anytime soon. 

CONFIRMED: GOOD

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