Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit

Jack Ryan Shadow Recruit

  • Unremarkable to a fault, Shadow Recruit is nonetheless exciting entertainment.
  • The characters are underdeveloped, especially Cathy Muller (Keira Knightley) and Viktor Cheverin (Kenneth Branagh), but also Jack Ryan (Chris Pine) and William Harper (Kevin Costner). Because the characters have minimal definition, we care less about them.
  • Their relationships are just as underdeveloped. Cathy and Jack supposedly love one another, but we do not see (or feel) their connection.
  • The performances are fine, neither remarkable nor poor. Branagh is the best of the actors, but even he is not memorable.
  • The plot line is compelling but not inventive. We feel we have seen this movie before.
  • Ditto that for the action sequences. In part because Director Branagh frames many shots too tightly, we are never awed by the visual spectacle before us. Also, none of the sequences are inventive. Car chases, brawls in confined spaces, remarkable acrobatics, etc. All of these things are action movie staples.
  • Thematically, Shadow Recruit has limited application. Perhaps it is making a statement on managing relationships, or maybe on international interconnectedness, but it doesn’t focus on theme and therefore doesn’t resonate.
  • Technically, Branagh’s direction is far from great but also far from mistake-ridden. The camera might move a bit too much, but Branagh offsets this flaw with strong editing choices that guide our eyes and attention appropriately.
  • In other words, almost everything about Shadow Recruit says ‘average.’
  • Except for one very important element: fun. This film is always fun.
  • From Branagh’s exaggerated Russian villain, to the screenplay’s commendable expository restraint, to rapid pacing, Shadow Recruit is constantly exciting and entertaining. Here is where Branagh makes his best directorial decisions; he doesn’t try to craft an art house masterpiece. He creates a thrilling action adventure, and nothing more.
  • He has his actors keep the same focus. Knightley, Pine and Costner never delve too deeply into emotion, never overwhelm the picture with acting skill or serious interpretation. They keep it light.
  • And fun.
  • In other words, Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit is not going to inspire its audience. It won’t make anyone think or seek social change, but it will entertain.
  • Final Grade: C+

24 thoughts on “Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit

  1. I think the best thing about Jack Ryan is the timing of the release. On that particular day, I really needed to see a movie like this. And because most other films in the cinema right now are OSCAR-bait or three hours long, I think I am not alone in thinking this.

  2. Good review. It was a fun movie, though not entirely a memorable one. That said, if they decided to give this one the pass for a possible-franchise, I’d definitely be on-board.

  3. Pretty fair review man, I might end up seeing this in theaters despite all my hesitations. A lot of the time a film that’s so middle-of-the-road offends me more than a plain terrible film, because when they’re terrible I have a lot of my work done for me. So maybe what I mean is, it’s difficult to review a so-so picture. But at least this one sounds fun for what it is.

  4. Best cinema film of 2014 so far, despite being extremely average, as you have pointed out. It simply just does not have any competition until The Lego Movie comes out next week. Hated the ending sequence. Even B Movies have that exact same chase, and it is just aggravating as the result is always the same.

  5. I just saw this last night, and I feel the exact same way–was even thinking about giving it the exact same grade! Fun enough, but nothing special. Nice review! 🙂

  6. I’m a fan of the JR films (I think I have only read 2 or 3 of Clancy’s JR books) despite the various degrees of quality in some of them. I will definitely be giving this one a watch. I know it isn’t re-inventing the wheel and if I follow your advice and turn my brain off before it starts, I’m sure I will enjoy it. I like Branagh’s work of late, so I know I will enjoy him in this. Thanks for the review! Nice job!

    My fav Jack Ryan film is probably still The Hunt for Red October. I can never get enough of that movie.

    • I liked Red October, too, but that is the only other one I’ve seen and it was a long time ago. So I’m not sure whether or not it is better than this one.

      This one is definitely good, mindless fun. I think you’ll enjoy it.

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