In the first ten minutes of “Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit”, we see Ryan, played by Chris Pine, go through nearly 15 years of bouncing around career choices with him ultimately being forced into a life he didn’t know existed in this action film based on characters created by the great action author Tom Clancy. Kevin Costner plays Thomas Harper who knows Jack Ryan has great intelligence and thinks he is the perfect candidate for his team of C.I.A. agents.
Flash ahead and Ryan is now in the C.I.A. as a financial analyst who agrees to live covertly, although he has a love in his life played by Keira Knightley. At the turning point in the movie, Ryan notices some secret activity in the Russian accounts and with help from Harper, he puts together the pieces and realizes that they are planning an attack that will cripple the United States economy.
After making the trip to Moscow, the movie eventually turns into a traditional action packed, enemy chasing thriller that includes ticking bombs and other things we’ve seen before in better movies. That’s not to say that the action in the third act is not done well. After a rather slow and plot developing first hour, the last 45 minutes is what we paid to see.
The movie clearly has James Bond and Mission Impossible influences and anyone who enjoys those types of movies will likely enjoy Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit. The chases are well done, the secret spy activity is well done, however all of these set pieces start to feel like what they are. A collection of set pieces put together with a very thin plot that is less than believable.
Chris Pine almost plays himself as Jack Ryan, nothing special but it will suffice. Keira Knightley mails home the girlfriend/damsel in distress role and Kevin Costner doesn’t do much other than sit at the top of a building with a sniper rifle giving tips to Jack Ryan. The best performance is the evil Viktor Cherevin, played wonderfully by Kenneth Branagh. His performance is slow burning, almost Christoph Waltz style, yet he never goes too broad to make himself a caricature.
Ultimately, “Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit” is nothing special if you’ve seen other movies in the genre. It hits the basic beats that a movie like this should to hit, however it is predictable the entire way. I never thought to myself that a plot point was different than other movies I’ve seen nor did I sit up in my seat, not sure if Jack Ryan would make it out of Moscow alive. The character is likeable enough that you want to root for him, but not a special action star that you want to see his sequel. I left the film thinking that it did what it said it would do and if that’s enough for you, this is worth seeing. Otherwise, I would recommend skipping this one or at least waiting for a DVD rental.