Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit

Posted by Joel Copling on February 11, 2014

Nothing among the genre tropes within "Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit" is particularly sensible, though--weird as it is to say it--the central motivation of our titular character is. We are first introduced to Jack Ryan (Chris Pine, who is the fourth actor to fill this role and a fitting presence) on the campus of Oxford University moments before the tragic events of September 11, 2001, unfold on the television screen, and then the timeline zooms forward 18 months to find Jack a soldier caught in a helicopter ambush. Just then, Adam Cozad and David Koepp's screenplay (working, of course, with modernized definitions of the late Tom Clancy's characters) gives us an emotional reason to connect with Jack: His motivation to protect his country is shared by many of today's soldiers.

It's mostly incidental to the premise of the film, which is tautly conceived, if a bit stuck in a Cold War mode: Jack is hired by Thomas Harper (Kevin Costner) into the C.I.A. to lay among the financial district of New York, Wall Street, wherein his real identity as an agent must be given to no one. He discovers that U.S. currency is mysterious going up in value following an economic blow--it should be going down, which means there's something criminal occurring--and must track the source. This takes him and, later, girlfriend/former nurse Cathy (Keira Knightley) to the clutches of ruthless Moscow-based businessman Viktor Cherevin (Kenneth Branagh, who also directs) and a steely-eyed assassin named Aleksandr (Alec Utgoff, intense and frightening but calm).

Branagh, who proves a convincing villain whose motivation for destruction (of a subtler, more sinister kind than city destruction) makes him a bit more than just that, also proves an efficient purveyor of action setpieces and tense scenes of wordplay. A dinner sequence in which Cathy must distract Cherevin for a certain period of time while Jack retrieves a necessary bit of information in order to stop an economic meltdown is fraught with biting suspense, and Jack's bruising takedown of another assassin (played by Nonso Anozie) gets things off to a terrifically edited start. "Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit" might be silly to its core, but it's an action-thriller with enough style to rouse and intelligence not to insult ours.

Film Information

Chris Pine (Jack Ryan), Keira Knightley (Cathy Muller), Kevin Costner (Thomas Harper), Kenneth Branagh (Viktor Cherevin), Colm Feore (Rob Behringer), Alec Utgoff (Aleksandr Borovsky), Peter Andersson (Dimitri Lemkov), Lenn Kudrjawizki (Katya), Nonso Anozie (Embee Deng), Seth Ayott (Teddy Hefferman), Gemma Chan (Amy Chang), David Paymer (Dixon Lewis).

Directed by Branagh and written by Adam Cozad and David Koepp, based on characters created by Tom Clancy.

Rated PG-13 (violence/intense action, brief language).

105 minutes.

Released on January 17, 2014.