Director: Kenneth Branagh.
Starring: Chris Pine, Keira Knightley, Kenneth Branagh, Kevin Costner.
Running Time: 105 minutes.
Synopsis: Jack Ryan (Chris Pine), a young C.I.A. analyst, finds himself uncovering a potential terrorist attack whilst investigating a Russian plot to crash the American economy.
With nearly as many incarnations as Bond, SHADOW RECRUIT marks Jack Ryan’s fifth screen outing. But where Ian Fleming’s smooth operator works in a very knowing, tongue in cheek world, Kenneth Branagh has managed to sap any sense of fun from proceedings, delivering a film that rarely rises above a jumble of BOURNE-pinching boredom.
Introduced to Jack at University, the events of 9/11 spur him on to join the Marines. After saving two of his comrades in Afghanistan and coming to the attention of Thomas Harper (Kevin Costner purely there to push the story forward), this exemplary serviceman finds himself on a fast track to the C.I.A. Yes, this is all very impressive (well done, Jack), but it soon becomes apparent that this is an origin story without spark or originality.
Taking the baton from former Ryans Ford, Baldwin and Affleck, Chris Pine continues to prove himself the charismatic leading man. But in a film that is so formulaic, he is denied the chance for any fun. Caught between Branagh’s scene munching villain, Cherevin (a role Kevin Spacey could play in his sleep) and a bland script that struggles to hold your attention, his literal Jack-of-all-trades just doesn’t sit right.
Thank goodness, then, for Keira Knightley who is a desperately needed breath of fresh air as love interest, Cathy. With everything around her so slick and set in place, she brings her dainty, quirky sensibilities along with an American accent that completely transforms her. SHADOW RECRUIT may take itself far too seriously, but Knightley is absolutely charming with what little she has to play with.
Kenneth Branagh’s JACK RYAN may present an unexciting lead who can apparently do everything, but there’s no denying it steps up a gear during a particularly intense car chase. However, it’s unfortunately a case of too little too late. These scenes may be fun, but when everything feels like it’s been seen before, the film suffers greatly for it, even when quite obviously begging for franchise potential.
Thrown into the secret service headfirst, SHADOW RECRUIT wants to lead by BOURNE’s example but fails miserably to bring anything new to the table. It would be all too easy to jokingly call it JACK RYAN: BOURNE RECRUIT, but that would imply enjoyment. SHADOW RECRUIT unquestionably tries hard, but its persistence to stick to such a rigid action hero formula denies this origin tale of any excitement.
UK Release Date: Friday 24th January, 2014.