John Hanlon Reviews

Film Reviews

Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit

Genre: Action and Adventure, Drama

Director: Kenneth Branagh

Cast: Chris Pine, Keira Knightley, Kevin Costner, Kenneth Branagh

MPAA-Rating: R

Release Date: January 17th, 2014

“You’re not just an analyst anymore. You’re operational now.” So states Thomas Harper (Kevin Costner), pills a CIA officer in charge of young recruits in the new action feature Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit. Ryan, visit web
a patriotic young officer whose view of the 9/11 attacks— while he was studying economics in England— pushed him into serving this country is the recipient of Harper’s remarks. This story focuses on Ryan’s first mission as an operative and it pits him against a monstrous Russian named Viktor Cherevin (Kenneth Branagh).

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of course, is the same character depicted in The Hunt for Red October, Patriot Games, Clear and Present Danger and The Sum of All Fears. Here, we see him as a fresh recruit as he takes a position at an investment firm, not knowing exactly where it will lead. Ryan was chosen to join the agency after he saved two fellow soldiers during war but his economics background surely helps him in his current position.

After finding that some Russian investments are being hidden from his firm, Ryan travels overseas to confront Cherevin, one of the company’s trading partners whose dealings with his company are particularly shady. Unaware that her fiancé is undercover, Ryan’s worried fiance Cathy (played by a well-utilized Keira Knightley) abruptly arrives in Russia, believing that Ryan’s secretive behavior belies the fact that he’s having an affair.

From its beginning (from the 9/11 attacks to the war zone overseas), Shadow Recruit plays as an origin story so those unfamiliar with the famous Tom Clancy character won’t need to see the previous films to understand this one. Pine plays the character here as a vulnerable analyst who doesn’t realize how intense his position would be. (I thought this was a desk job, he says at one point).

When he’s called upon to kill his first target (a man who fires the first shot), Ryan doesn’t hesitate to defend himself but he’s more hesitant after the battle is won. He’s killed a man and doesn’t know what to do with that fact. Harper reassures him and their conversation about the ordeal stands out in a story that seldom makes light of how a CIA operative’s job can personally affect them.

Throughout the entire proceedings, Ryan is never presented as an action hero— negligent to the violence he sees or unaware of the stakes involved— and he always maintains that naïve attitude about what he’s up against. That real character development, established early on, helps make the action sequences that transpire later that much more powerful. When the flirtatious Cathy is kidnapped by the scenery-chewing Cherevin, Ryan’s worries feel heartfelt and it’s difficult not to see how much he loves her in those anxiety-driven scenes.

Shadow Recruit does face a few serious questions along the way. How did the CIA know that this investment job would lead to this grand villain? Why, in one late scene, is Ryan the only one who seems to be picking up on all of the clues in figuring out the location of a planned terror attack? Why do super-villains have sparse offices with nearly nothing on their desks?

Fortunately, these questions never undercut this story too much and the character development here combined with a terror plot that actually makes sense (and is sadly realistic) help make this the first great action pic of the new year.


Review by: John Hanlon