Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit Review
Before we begin, let me shed light on an important fact. I never read a lot of Tom Clancy, not that I dislike the deceased author. Its just that our paths have never really crossed yet. The light reading I have done of Clancy, I have had the opportunity to meet Jack Ryan. I have also seen the movie adaptations of "The Hunt For The Red October," "Clear and Present Danger" and "The Sum of All Fears." I have a somewhat good understanding of the character, and I understand what makes him different compared to Jason Bourne and James Bond. Ryan isn't an action hero, he's an analyst. He defends our nation with very different weapons compared to the previous spies I suggested, which should pave the way for a different looking film.
So excuse me if I am puzzled that director Kenneth Branagh shoehorned the character into a clear action movie.
Look, its pretty clear that one of Hollywood's new strategies is to set up franchises and let the money roll in, much like a fast food restaurant. So Paramount's next big idea was to turn Jack Ryan into another big brand for the studio. After all, Paramount and Clancy had a big relationship with the author's character, and they helped Ryan get onscreen. However, taking a semi-popular, fictional spy and placing him into a popular, modern action model of a movie doesn't automatically mean its a good idea. "Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit" proves more than ever that some characters belong to the authors who manifested them, and trying to create something new is possibly hazardous.
I'll give the film a few points. The casting of Kevin Costner was absolutely near-perfect. Coming off the rails of last year's "Man of Steel," Costner feels right at home playing Harper. The CIA official who recruits Jack Ryan into the Agency. Before Harper recruits him, Ryan leaves collegiate study in London to join the army after 9/11. During his time in Afghanistan, Ryan is badly injured after his helicopter is shot down. Harper finds Ryan recuperating from his injuries. Costner makes it all seem effortless, much like Liam Neeson, Costner could become the next great mentor character in movies. Added with the cinematography by Haris Zambarloukos, everything looks quite luminous. But, aside from those details, the films problems begin here.
Branagh's decision to turn the analytical Jack Ryan into a action-packed, super-spy. There comes a point in this movie where Ryan stops acting analytical and can suddenly shoot better, jump higher, kill better, drive faster, and run faster than every other character in the movie. You could try to argue that his character had training in the Army, but soldiers can't do the things Ryan does in this movie. Ryan is pretty much superheroic during moments in this movie, and the worst thing they could have done with the character is turn him into an action hero. Jack Ryan will look like a Jason Bourne clone to people unfamiliar with Tom Clancy's work, and that's a shame. Even the casting of Chris Pine shows that. As much as I love Pine, he's completely wrong for Jack Ryan. He's not someone I think of when I think analytical, but action hero? He's perfect, and there lies the problem.
The analysis aspect of Ryan's personality may not be as commercial in a modern setting, but its not impossible. What was even more dumbfounding about this whole experience were the bad guys. Kenneth Branagh plays the villain of the movie, a Russian official with a bad plot to bankrupt America. The villain as well as how his plot is handled felt like a 1960's or 1970's James Bond film. Russia isn't the same county as it was during The Cold War, and a movie about a modern Jack Ryan should show that, but it doesn't and its all weird. Its especially weird due to Branagh's bad Russian accent.
What this all boils down to is this. I don't get why a new Jack Ryan movie not based on any of Tom Clancy's books was made. I don't get why Paramount wanted to make this if they were going to ignore what made the character unique in he first place, and make a standard, cliche action thriller. Sure, there are some analytical points Ryan uses in the film, but mostly, its just another spy-action thriller. Except this one is boring, tedium and completely confused by its politics. I really doubt that this will become the next big franchise for Paramount, and that's a disappointment.
FINAL GRADE: C-