Friday Features: 'Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit'

Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit

Credit: Paramount Studios

Chris Pine plays Jack Ryan in "Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit"

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by HAYDEN PITTMAN

WFAA Special Contributor

Posted on January 17, 2014 at 12:27 PM

Updated Friday, Jan 17 at 5:38 PM

The 4th actor to play the character Jack Ryan returns to the big screen in “Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit”, an exciting, action-packed, modern day spy thriller featuring Chris Pine, Keira Knightley, Kevin Costner, and Kenneth Branagh. The newest reboot film featuring Tom Clancy’s ‘Jack Ryan’ character, this film joins the likes of previous movies with the title character, such as “The Hunt For Red October”, “Patriot Games”, “Clear and Present Danger”, and “The Sum of All Fears”, but follows a completely new story that is separate from previous installments. The film has a quality spy feeling similar to notable veteran thrillers like the ones mentioned above.

Following the events of 9-11, Jack Ryan (Pine) eagerly joins the military in hopes of serving his country. After a helicopter crash leaves Ryan badly injured and anxiously trying to recover through physical therapy, he is recruited into the CIA by Commander William Harper (Costner) as a junior analyst due to his credible military record, PHD quality smarts, and high level of potential. While investigating a possible terrorist attack and illegal financial activity, Ryan travels to Moscow, where his is inadvertently activated to field agent. After meeting with an eccentric Russian businessman (Branagh), Ryan continues to use the intelligence available to him to try and stop the attack on the U.S. financial market. In the midst of this, he fends off assassins, experiences the thrills and dangers of being a field agent, and deals with his strained personal relationship with Dr. Cathy Muller (Knightley).

“Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit” has many similarities to classic spy or action thrillers like “James Bond”, “Mission Impossible”, and previous “Jack Ryan” films. The most notable is the appearance of the movie title after a brief stimulating intro and major event. Other likenesses include the mysterious, foreign head case of a main villain, a smooth, highly motivated special agent, and constant high tech spy gear, intelligence, and sleight of hand. At the same time, this film strays from including a great deal of over-the-top action scenes, focuses more on the “secret agent”, and adds a heavier layer of romance than the traditional spy formula presents. There is less fighting and more spying, but when there is combat, it is lengthier one-on-one fistfights and encounters with the main Russian bad guys. At times, it does feel like a made up, fantasy story with fictitious characters from a fictional novel, while realistically using real events and places around the world.

The film has light humor, with much due to Chris Pine as he adds his typical style of suave, confident, and borderline arrogant style of comedy as seen in films like “Star Trek” and “This Is War”, and Knightley and Costner account for a handful of laughs as well. Pine fits the daring pretty boy agent who can get rugged and violent quite nicely, and Knightley presents a decent American accent while looking terrific. Kevin Costner plays a good veteran CIA agent/handler for Jack Ryan, and Branagh gives an interesting performance as a dangerous and strange Russian villain fixated on power and destruction. From shots of London, Moscow, and New York, to various buildings, to interior and exterior scene locations, everything in the film looks relatively well. The movie is complimented with an appropriate and exceptional soundtrack and score filled with eerie spy tunes, and romantic and action music.

There are several things that bothered me in this film. Whether it was the theater I was in or the movie itself, the sound was way to loud, causing the action scenes to be almost deafening at times. Another annoyance was the camera views during a good amount of action sequences. The camera moves around very quickly and often cuts from angle to angle, which seems to increase the intensity, but is rather blurry, distracting, and sometimes hard to make out everything that is happening in the scene. Similarly, the story can be confusing, either because they are talking about complex information, or because there are scenes that happen without presenting meaning and characters that are not fully explained. The story reaches at times to feel authentic, and can seem predicable every now and again, but does a good job at keeping you entertained through humor, action, and mystery.

In the end, “Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit” is an enjoyable, well-balanced, thrilling spy drama. This film will likely be a popular one, with much credit due to the current cast and well-known previous Jack Ryan stories, but it will receive mixed critic reviews. It doesn’t end with a cliffhanger by any means, but sets up potential future films and further Jack Ryan stories. Check it out for yourself this weekend.

Rated 3.5 out of 5 stars.

“Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit” is rated PG-13 for sequences of violence and intense action, and brief strong language. Running time is 1 hour and 45 minutes.


Hayden Pittman is a special contributor to WFAA.com and a freelance film critic and entertainment blogger out of Dallas. More of his content can be found on YouPlusDallas.com and his author archive here. He is a film, TV, and sports enthusiast, and hopes to pursue a future in filmmaking and screenwriting. As an average, passionate film lover who rarely misses a film, his reviews are straightforward and his way with words will let you know in a simple way what he thinks. Don’t like what he has to say? Let him know at haydenp@youplusmedia.com or follow him on Twitter at @HPMoviePitt.

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