Sunday, January 11, 2015

Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit

Chris Pine (STAR TREK’s new Captain Kirk) follows Alec Baldwin, Harrison Ford, and Ben Affleck as the fourth actor to play Tom Clancy’s right-wing book hero Jack Ryan on the big screen. Paramount had little faith in it, burying it with a January release that opened in fourth place at the box office. Perhaps the studio thought the plot was too complicated (it may explain why they placed a “New York City” caption over an establishing shot of the Statue of Liberty) or maybe it questioned the size of Pine’s or Ryan’s fanbase.

As far as his friends, bosses, colleagues, and girlfriend Cathy (Keira Knightly) know, young Jack Ryan, a Ph.D. in Economics who was wounded while serving as a U.S. Marine in Afghanistan, works a steady but dull analyst job on Wall Street. As only his handler Thomas Harper (Kevin Costner) knows, Ryan is also working for the CIA, keeping an eye on financial transactions around the world that could indicate terrorist activity.

One red flag is Viktor Cherevin (Kenneth Branagh), a Russian broker who Ryan believes may be planning to sink the U.S. dollar in anticipation of a terrorist attack on American soil. Frankly, the whats and the whys of the story by Adam Cozad and David Koepp (SPIDER-MAN) went over my head, and I didn’t really care. I did care about some of the dumber moments, such as the response by Cathy, whom Knightly plays as needy and a little crazy, to Ryan’s admission of his CIA job.

Pine is good, convincing as an intellect, a nervous amateur thrust into an extraordinary situation, and an athletic man of action. Even better is Costner, whose natural charisma has aged into gravitas that has allowed him to settle into mentor roles. England substitutes nicely for everywhere from Moscow to Michigan, and the direction by Branagh (THOR) is as solid as his performance as the baddie, even if Russian bad guys were played out as action-movie foes long ago. On that note, JACK RYAN’s action beats and setpieces are by the book, right down to Cathy’s inevitable kidnapping — hardly a spoiler for a movie like this.

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