Movie Review: Typical action defines Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit
Director: Kenneth Branagh
Writers: Adam Cozad, David Koepp, Tom Clancy (Based on characters)
Stars: Chris Pine, Kevin Costner, Keira Knightley, Kenneth Branagh
Synopsis: Jack Ryan, as a young covert CIA analyst, uncovers a Russian plot to crash the U.S. economy with a terrorist attack.
Kenneth Branagh, who directed Thor, brings us Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit, which is more or less another reboot of the character. This film is really divided in the sense that the first half was much, much stronger than the second. The first half had a sense of mystique and curiosity, along with some well written scenes to enhance those qualities. However, the second is the same-ld tropes and story arcs we’ve seen over and over again. Although, there are some settle differences, Jack Ryan isn’t anything new by a long shot. The way Branagh handles the mysteriousness was fantastic, but the reveal was pretty much mundane on every level, with a few exceptions. He doesn’t overplay the relationship drama within the reveal that would make it cheesy and very distracting. Branagh also does a nice job of making you think he’s going in one direction but then plays it differently, which was nice. And that’s a credit to creative camerawork and well thought out set pieces, especially when exploring the Moscow aesthetic.
Okay, where to begin with this one? This is easily the worst part of Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit, but mostly it’s just lost potential and it’s not the worst thing we’ve ever seen. Again, the first half is strong and where lots of scripts overwrite certain scenes, Adam Cozad and David Koepp pull back the reigns a little which was nice. The dialogue in the first half was realistic and kept it in the same mysterious aesthetic. However, the middle act becomes a bit muddled and forces some moving parts that didn’t need to be going at those speeds. The recruitment of Ryan is one good example that went by with no real explanation other than he’s really smart. The third act seems to move away from what worked earlier in the film and mostly becomes the same mundane action movie we’ve seen over and over again. The dialogue becomes cheesy and lazily written, while not exploring the areas it needed to be. It’s like they wanted to be the new Bourne movie, but with Jack Ryan instead of Jason. There’s no real reason every explained how Ryan goes from the analysis chair to “in the field”, other than he was a Marine so maybe that works? Anyway, while I like that they went away from the North Korean bad-guy trend, this story isn’t anything to boast about and doesn’t add anything new. The second and third acts are pretty weak, and if not for better direction and better acting, this could of been much worse. There was a lot of potential here for it to be something descent, and while it’s certainly not the worst thing in the world (see Die Hard 5), it’s mostly dry and mundane.
Chris Pine was pretty good in the role of Jack Ryan. He fits the analysis persona really well but has enough physical ability that he could do the action sequences when he needed to. His chemistry with Keira Knightley was interesting in the fact that it didn’t seem to be that great, but in many cases, that was pretty intentional. So when you look at it like that, it’s kind of hard to tell. Knightley, while I love her, was pretty average here. She didn’t have as much to do and her dialogue was very poorly written, especially in the third act of the film. I’m looking at you Cozad and Koepp. Costner was fantastic as the older CIA operative who is recruiting Ryan, however he was kind of hard to buy in the action pieces. Thankfully there wasn’t a ton of that for him. The director himself, Kenneth Branagh, plays our main Russian villain who is stereotypical in almost every fashion. There is actually one piece of dialogue where a security guy says he has the “same problems” that are his weakness; vodka, women, infidelity and everything else that comes with Russian bad-guys. Again, it’s a script issue. The performances themselves are fine.
Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit has an oddly great score for a typical action movie. That is, until you see that it was scored by Patrick Doyle and then it all makes sense. And while this isn’t on the same level as his Thor score, it’s still very good, especially for this movie. It’s high energy with some really good subtle themes throughout. He uses a lot of drums that adds to some great dynamics with his strings, which he’s good at maneuvering. This is a solid piece of music and was used well in the film. Many of the tracks are actually pretty good to listen to outside of the film as well, which is hard to do for movies like this.
Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit is far front the worst I’ve ever seen. And it’s way better than that action movie that was in Russia last year at this time (Die Hard what?). However, the mystery isn’t all that exciting and it tries to be something that it’s not. The script needed some work and to edit out all the cheesy dialogue that makes this film seem very empty. While the performances are good, this is going to be another failed reboot with the character and for good reason. If you like typical action movies, this will be a good Redbox rental or Netflix watch, but it’s nothing more than that.