CIA analysis agent Jack Ryan is no new character to the world of film. In fact, “Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit” is the fifth in the action-packed series to be produced. Based on a series of novels by Tom Clancy, the newest rendition takes an inventive form as the first film that is not based on one of Clancy’s stories but instead acts as a prequel to the novels. Director Kenneth Branagh, who also plays the villain in his own film, uses a creative storyline to bring the fictional character of Jack Ryan to life.
In previous films, actors such as Alec Baldwin, Harrison Ford and Ben Affleck took on Jack’s role. The torch has now been passed down to actor Chris Pine, who has the responsibility of upholding the name and character that Clancy envisioned. With this burden to carry, the question is whether or not Pine — as well as the rest of the cast and crew — is able to uphold the good reputation this franchise comes with. And while Pine succeeds in filling Jack’s shoes, the overall film feels too unoriginal to make the performance memorable.
Pine transforms into Jack, a CIA financial analyst who must take on the challenge of transitioning from a desk job to a CIA operative. Previously, Jack suffered from a back injury after serving in Afghanistan, which resulted in him being sent to a rehabilitation center. There he meets his girlfriend, Cathy (Keira Knightley), the medical assistant who helps Jack learn to walk again.
While in the rehabilitation center, Jack also meets his future employer Thomas Harper (Kevin Costner), who offers him a desk job that gives him the opportunity to use his perceptive skills for the CIA. With this job, Jack is in charge of observing unusual patterns on Wall Street to prevent potential terrorist attacks on the U.S. Having to keep his CIA job a secret, Jack leads a double life between work and home that gets torn when he uncovers suspicious activity with the CIA’s Russian partners. Jack and Thomas must work together against the devious villain Viktor Cherevin (Kenneth Branagh) to handle a situation that could potentially destroy the U.S. economy.
This reboot of the Clancy franchise is not only an action movie, but also contains elements of drama and romance that would make it enjoyable for movie viewers with different genre tastes. A plethora of scenes depicted the collision of these genres, such as Jack killing someone for the first time and having a very emotional and very real reaction. Although labeled an action thriller, it contained minimal extreme action scenes as the bulk focused on the plot.
The film is not based on a novel, therefore there are fewer opportunities to misinterpret the source material — right? Wrong. Although the storyline was adequate, I couldn’t help but feel as if this movie was fairly predictable, consisting of the typical cliche action scenes, such as escaping a near-death explosion just like every contemporary spy film out there. Although it contained a good plot and action worth seeing, it brought nothing new to the table and was hardly groundbreaking. This new rendition was definitely entertaining to view, but very typical in the eyes of movie viewers who have grown accustomed to action movies such as these.
Having to make an international spy film that walks in the shadows of previous films is a difficult task to take on. There is an ongoing dispute about whether or not some movies should have sequels and prequels in order to preserve the greatness of the original films, or in this case, novels. However, the director preserved the heroic qualities of the character that made him so popular in the first place. No matter how many “Jack Ryan” films are made, the true significance of the films is the presence of a hero. Jack is someone who, no matter the circumstances, no matter the dilemma, will always be there in the end to save the day. Based on the new film, Clancy would be proud that the filmmakers did Jack Ryan some justice despite the unoriginal plot.
Rating: 3 stars