UK Release: January 24 2014
Tom Clancy’s popular CIA operative Jack Ryan has been given a new leech of life. Having been played by Alec Baldwin, Harrison Ford and Ben Affleck in the past (in respected films of ‘Clear and Present Danger’, ‘Hunt for Red October’ and ‘The Sum of All Fears’), it is interested that rights holder Paramount Pictures have rebooted the franchise, and taken the Jack Ryan character (here regenerated into Chris Pine – holding both this and the ‘Star Trek’ franchises well here), and made a film which use elements from different novels as source material then just a direct adaptation of one. So in comes Kenneth Branagh with ‘JACK RYAN: SHADOW RECRUIT’, scripted by David Koepp – which is essentially a modern retelling of war veteran being initiated into the CIA.
Gone has the whole idea of him being injured on a tour of duty in the Gulf War, instead comes a injury to his back from a tour of duty in Afghanistan. At lot of this modernisation means the removal of the backdrop of the Cold War being the catalyst for the espionage story to start, instead we have the whole Cold War backdrop is used more for a characters story, as seen with the Russian villain of the piece played by the film’s director of Kenneth Branagh (in 80’s bad guy mode). And this clever modernisation lends itself well to the film. At its core there is still very much a classic spy story to it – the genre beats of having secret meetings in cinemas (playing is ‘Sorry, Wrong Number’ which mirrors what’s happening in the film) to the fact that Jack Ryan is just a spy not some James Bond style hero who can beat up the bad guys instead he is a analyst. There is also a classic genre sequence where a dinner is happening at the same time as of a break in.
This idea of him not being able to beat up the bad guys is really the excellent USP of the Ryan character in the modern movie marketplace. There is some wonderful moments of direction and acting – after Jack kills a man for the first time and you see his shacking and reacting in shock when being debriefed by surrogate father figure (since he is good at playing them parts) Kevin Costner. There is also a nice subplot about his relationship with his wife, and if she knows about the double life he leads working for the CIA. Keira Knightley does a good job with what she is given as the wife, even if the American accent can be a little distracting at first. Patrick Doyle, Branagh’s regular composer also brings a strange Playstation 1 game feel score to the proceedings as well. Fans of the Tom Clancy books might not like what has happened here as some of the (if my memory serves me right) in depth political nature of the source material has gone, but still this is a lot of fun, it’s nice to see a spy film which is fun but also has a plausible central scenario, not just from the actions of the character, but with what is happening in the world today with actual financial crimes being mirrored in the villains grand plan. Well done for to Branagh who (just like in ‘Thor’) has come up with a entertaining spy action flick. *
*And yes the new Microsoft Windows’ Phones are used extensivly as product placement.