Film Review: Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit

So, it’s “Cheapie Tuesday” at Vue Cinemas and so a quick trip to the cinema with my Dad was in order. Having seen most other things that are out, and with my Dad a fan of Tom Clancy novels I fully supported his decision to see Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit.

Now, I’d listened to the latest Wittertainment podcast, I’d heard the interview with Sir Kenneth Branagh, and having seen and enjoyed Thor along with his performances in Valkyrie and Wallander, I went in with my eyes open. Not expecting genre defining filmmaking, but not expecting what I got either.

Sadly, Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit is just a throw away, forgettable, there to past the time film. It has a real sense of film making for the sake of film making. Rebooting, to use the latest Hollywood “buzzword”. Which is such a shame. Jack Ryan is one of those characters who, at the height of his reign: The Hunt For Red October, Patriot Games, Clear & Present Danger, paved the way for the spy genre to change, from suave and pompous into hard hitting. Jack Ryan arguably gave us Jason Bourne, and you could say, the latest version of Bond.

However, our latest shadow recruit has absolutely no connection to the previous incarnations. Honestly, this film feels like there is no connect to the character created by Tom Clancy other than in name. I said to my Dad it feels like something declaring they are going to make a new Bond film, but rather than base it on a book by Ian Flemming, they are just going to call the main character James Bond, and cast him as a spy.

This freedom from the world created by Clancy means that you are left with a film that feels like it’s pandering to an American market. There is back slapping galore on the virtues of American patriotism throughout. It’s modern day US/Russia cold war tension and I’d question whether it’s timings are more do with US politics and the tensions in Syria than a real attempt at serious film making and rebooting a franchise?

Then there is the problem that it feels like it’s two films. A grown up film in which Branagh and Costner play cat and mouse in a tense economic thriller, that grips you, is full of suspense and takes you on, what you can’t deny, is an enjoyable journey. But, this runs alongside an adolescent spy action film. They just don’t gel together. And annoyingly the casting has a lot to answer for.

Branagh and Costner convince in their roles – they have a real sense of strength about them. They just look at feel right. However, Chris Pine and Keira Knightley don’t. Pine just appears too young. Too good. And sadly, too invincible. Yes he’s playing Jack Ryan, and as such is meant to be the “star” but he never convinces. He always feels like the younger sibling wanting to join in with their older siblings games. You just know it’ll end badly, but of course, in Hollywood, it never does.

The really sad part is that Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit could have been so much more. The socio-economic thriller played out between Costner and Branagh as a plot and performance had legs and you just wish they’d run harder and deeper with it. Cut out Pine, cut out Knightley, lose the kiddie spy shoot’em up stuff and you’d actually have a better film. As it is, they’ve ended up rebooting the franchise and somehow taken a backwards step. It’s called Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit and sadly, it’s ended up in shadows.

And I’m not even going to mention Keira Knightley’s accent.

7 out of 10 stars (7 / 10)

Posted on by 5WC in Film First Edition

Comments are closed.