Friday, January 17, 2014

Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit

Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit is a reboot of the Jack Ryan series of movies which are in turn based on a series of books by Tom Clancy, who died October 2013. The previous movies are The Hunt For Red October, Patriot Games, Clear and Present Danger, and The Sum of All Fears, which are based on Clancy's 1st, 3rd, 5th, and 6th books. Shadow Recruit, on the other hand, is not based on a book.

Clancy's Ryan series is inextricably linked to the Cold War. Shadow Recruit updates the character for the modern era - the movie begins with reference to 9/11. Despite this, the film still manages to have a very Cold War plot. The bad guys are Russian, and their actions, to the extent that they make sense at all, are rooted in lingering antipathy from the Cold War.

It seems clear that the producers of this movie intend to follow the success of the Bourne franchise and Daniel Craig's more modern Bond. They have some things going for them. Chris Pine is a fine actor with proven ability to helm big, expensive action films (see: Star Trek) as well as proven sex appeal, which is important for this kind of thing. They also have David Koepp, whose screenwriting credits include Jurassic Park and Spider-Man.

Shadow recruit is directed by Kenneth Branagh, who also plays the villain. He is quite lovely as an actor, but the direction and editing leave a great deal to be desired. The film is full of wandering, aimless camera work as well as the worst kind of shaky-cam.

Shadow Recruit also marks the resurgence of Kevin Costner, who has several movies coming out this year, including another one in which he plays a CIA agent. Keira Knightley rounds out the principal cast, and both she and Costner are quite good in their roles.

The film suffers from some of the same problems as the books did, which I suppose means that it is faithful to the character, at least. Jack Ryan started as an analyst, and his involvement in increasingly unlikely action sequences always smacked of Main Character Syndrome. This Ryan at least has military training to excuse some of what he does, but a great deal of suspension of disbelief is required.

In the end, this is a serviceable action film, but not an outstanding one. They only spent $60 million making it, which sets a relatively low bar for profitability. If it makes its money back, expect more films to follow.

Performance: 3/5
Plot: 3/5
Production: 2/5
Overall: 3/5
Bechdel: Fail
Reverse-Bechdel: Pass
Mako Mori: Fail
What are these?

1. Lone Survivor
2. Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit
3. The Legend of Hercules

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