The late Tom Clancy created the fictional character Jack Ryan, who first appeared in the 1984 novel, The Hunt for Red October, which was made into a movie in 1990. Alec Baldwin played the title character, but was over shadowed by his co-star Sean Connery as the Russian submarine commander. Two more Jack Ryan movies followed with Harrison Ford taking over the role, and Ben Affleck in 2002. The character has also appeared in other novels and his ultimate rise in the executive ladder was epically dramatic.
Now Jack Ryan is getting a reboot. The new film isn’t based on a Clancy novel, but on a screenplay that was rebooted itself into a Jack Ryan start-up story. Chris Pine (AKA Capt. Kirk of the Enterprise) is Jack. Keira Knightley also appears as the love interest. Kevin Costner plays the Naval Officer/CIA boss who recruits Ryan into the spy ranks, while Kenneth Branagh plays the Russian bad guy and also directs the film. (Did they have to pay extra for multi-tasking?)
The story covers JR’s emotional response to the 9/11 attacks, his subsequent enlistment in the military and injury in Afghanistan, attracting Costner’s attention for his abilities, and being recruited into the CIA. He’s also a PhD in economics and has a special aptitude for recognizing complex patterns. And it’s not long before he spots a big scheme by the Russians to completely destroy the U.S. economy and stage a spectacular terror attack.
It’s all up to Jack Ryan to outsmart them and save the day. Branagh, who usually directs Shakespeare movies, has moved on to films like Thor, Iron Man 2 and thrillers to make up for the financial shortfalls of the last couple of films by the Bard. His work here is adequate but not remarkable.
As a suspense thriller, Shadow Recruit is as good as all of its predecessors except The Hunt for the Red October. They’re still trying to work their way out of Sean Connery’s shadow. Branagh’s next directing project is a big budget version of Cinderella with Cate Blanchett as The Lady Tremaine, Helena Bonham Carter as the Evil Stepmother and Lily James of Downton Abbey as the glass slipper-less runner.
Branagh, however, is very good in Shadow Recruit as the nasty Russian business man and plotter, although his motives are never quite made clear. Chris Pine is peppy, smiling and smart when he needs to be. Kevin Costner is now into senior roles and does fine here. Oddly, Costner was the first actor chosen to play Jack Ryan in The Hunt for the Red October. He turned it down and the part went to Baldwin. Instead Costner choose to make Dances with Wolves, and Sean Connery was not allowed to be in that film.
Rated 2.9 out of 4.0 reasons to ask, why are the Russians still the bad guys? Did the filmmakers forget about the North Koreans?