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Movie Review: 'Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit'

Rating: 2.5

Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit
U/A: Action
Dir: Kenneth Branagh
Cast: Chris Pine, Keira Knightley
**½

Hollywood seems to love Jack Ryan because it keeps making films on Tom Clancy’s character over and over again. Earlier, Alec Baldwin played Jack in The Hunt for Red October, followed by Harrison Ford in Patriot Games, then in Clear and Present Danger, and Ben Affleck in The Sum of All Fears.

Chris Pine in Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit
Chris Pine in Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit

The latter didn’t follow the timeline of the previous movies and didn’t really click as a film. The latest instalment serves as a reboot with a fresh story, a new hotshot actor and a fine filmmaker at the helm.

Directed by Kenneth Branagh at half the budget of his Thor, Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit is a terribly named movie, but a passably fun thriller for those looking for harmless escapist entertainment. The film casts the very likable Chris Pine in the role of Ryan and pitches him smack in the middle of a generic CIA versus terrorist attack plot. And as all CIA thriller movies tend to do, there is a Russian connection to the whole thing and a love interest (Keira Knightley) to give the hero something to lose.

Branagh casts himself as the villainous Victor Cherevin and he’s a pretty good departure from the standard issue Hollywood villain we generally get served on the platter. The script is written by David Koepp, who wrote the original Mission Impossible movie (which still remains the best of the series) and you can see he’s having a tough time trying to differentiate Jack Ryan from MI, Bourne and Bond. The actual plot itself isn’t very smart and there’s quite a lot of ’90s style cheese in it -- the worst of which is a scene where Ryan solves a hilariously contrived puzzle with dramatic seriousness. There are many more scenes like this, and they just prove how good an actor Pine is for keeping a straight face and giving you a chance to take the film seriously.

At one point Pine introduces himself as ‘Ryan, Jack Ryan’ and you’re left wondering if this is supposed to be a deliberate tongue-in-cheek reference to Bond or a desperate cover-up to the lack of creativity driving the movie. You can’t fault the film for its looks though — the entire film has a sleek sheen to it, courtesy cinematographer Haris Zambarloukos.

Plus there’s enough computer geekery and big action scenes to keep you entertained as long as you keep 50 percent of your attention on your popcorn bucket. If the entire movie had gone the whole hog with the cheesiness quotient, it’d have become a cult classic. As of now, it’s merely a tolerable, fun enough run-of-the-mill thriller.

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