Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit Review

Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit

Secret agent man, secret agent man.

They’ve taken away your numbered spaceship and given you a new name.

Sort of.

John Ryan, Jack to his friends, has been brought back to the big screen in the shape of he’s so hot right now Chris Pine.

Of course, I’m quietly confident this boy’s going to be pretty hot whatever year we find ourselves in.

Ryan, aka as the man with three first names, is a student in London when news of the 9/11 terrorist attacks breaks out across campus.


Well who wouldn’t be, as this breaks with any timeline you could possibly imagine for every previous incarnation of Jack Ryan you’ll have either seen or read.

Turns out the Tom Clancy name is something of a red herring, as this is nothing more than a brand that a couple of screenwriters have been allowed to resurrect in Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit.

Fast forward a few years from this inauspicious beginning, and we now find Pine dressed as some sort of army lieutenant in a helicopter flying over Afghanistan, while talking trash about some rubbish sport only americans play with his less decorated brothers in arms.

Other middle eastern countries america have or are going to invade in the not too distant future are also available.

When wouldn’t you just know it, disaster strikes, or rather some dastardly surface to air missile rips apart their brave and patriotic helicopter.

It doesn’t matter though because Jack Ryan is a secret agent man, so he somehow survives and even manages to haul both of his home boys to safety even though he suffered a broken back in the crash.

I’m not sure how any of this works out in a world I like to call planet earth, and it seems I’m not the only one as we don’t actually get to see how any of this unfolds.

Probably because it’s as impossible as that pesky magic bullet theory smoked up by the infamous Warren commission who most certainly weren’t covering up the inside job done on JFK all those moons ago.

But if I told you one of the writers behind this was also responsible for that god awful Indiana Jones film a few years back, everything starts to make sense.

Anyway, Jack, John or Ryan – take your pick – is told he may never walk again by some army medic, though seeing as we’re only about ninety seconds into the film, I personally had my doubts about this part.

Unless this new Jack Ryan was going to be more Professor Xavier than Harrison Ford.

Of course Ryan recovers, and when he does the former marine gets approached by an older international man of mystery who has a hunch this Jack fellow may be made of the right stuff.

Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit is probably the last espionage franchise that’ll be given a Jason Bourne inspired facelift as modern audiences demand for more realistic secret agent men grows ever stronger.

But as you may have guessed from the cut of my film reviewing gib, this particular spy film missed the boat when it comes to believability.

Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit

Despite this, Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit is still quite enjoyable.

Chris Pine is easily the best thing about it, as we get to see how someone other than Tom Clancy imagines his most famous literary invention got his start in this whole espionage lark.

And this generation’s Captain Kirk pulls off that same trick with his reinvention of Jack Ryan as well as he did on the starship Enterprise.

Even Kevin Costner as Ryan’s sort of mentor comes out of this with credit, as do the action set pieces that straddle that fine line between taking away your breath while still feeling vaguely possible.

As is now the fashion in these post Jason Bourne days our cinematic secret agent men live in.

But the real problem is why even try and reinvent an already popular character when there are still so many original Clancy novels you could adapt?

If you want to tell that origin story, which is even hotter than Chris Pine these days, then create your own character; don’t bastardise someone else’s so you can turn a quick buck at the box office.

And if you do insist on going down that path, you better make sure you’ve got a great script to back it up.

As you may have guessed, Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit doesn’t have this.

Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit

It does have Kenneth Brannagh as director as well as a one dimensional Russian agent gone rogue, proving once and for all that sleeping with the director really will get you ahead in hollywood; while gorgeous boy Keira Knightley is badly miscast as an american doctor type who heals our hero’s body and mind.

That’d be Pine, not Brannagh.

Sorry Ken.

Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit isn’t bad, but it sure ain’t that good either.

So the next time Pine’s offered the chance to trade his spaceship in so he can play a secret agent man, he’d be better off boldly telling them where they can go.

Jonathan Campbell

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Dates ‘n stuff

January 2014