<Review by: Sailesh Ghelani>
Directed by Kenneth Branagh. Starring Chris Pine, Kevin Costner, Keira Knightley, Kenneth Branagh
A cleverly set up and well paced thriller that isn’t about killing people and blowing things up – well not entirely.
The late great author Tom Clancy created him and screenwriter Hossein Amini has adapted a brand new story for Jack Ryan. There have been other movies that had the character Jack Ryan (most notably The Hunt for Red October, Patriot Games, Clear and Present Danger and more played by three other actors: Alec Baldwin, Harrison Ford and Ben Affleck) but this reboot of sorts gives us a young Jack Ryan, a marine fallen in combat who is recruited by the CIA to be a financial whiz cracking the code of terrorist funding. He inevitably becomes ‘operational’ which means he gets to carry a gun and infiltrate the bad guys’ fortified office buildings!
Star Trek’s Chris Pine is the new Jack Ryan and I couldn’t be more pleased. There’s something sincere and deeply likeable about Chris. He has the seriousness and the charm with just that bit of wit and humour to prevent him from becoming too dull.
Jack is handpicked by the CIA’s William Harper (Kevin Costner) to become a Wall Street suit and inform them of any fishy dealings that stink of terrorist plots to attack America after the NY World Trade Centre attacks of 2001. Jack eventually uncovers something that leads him to Moscow. But Mother Russia’s bosom proves to be less than comforting for Jack who has to fight for his life and his fiancé’s (Keira Knightley) while also trying to save America from being bombed and left financially bankrupt.
Director Kenneth Branagh also stars in the film as the evil Viktor Cherevin who is enlisted by Russia to wreak vengeance on the US. But he has a secret agenda of his own as well.
What I like about Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit is the time it takes to build up. Jack Ryan doesn’t all of a sudden become a hero who knows how to shoot to kill. He is green and shakes with fear after he’s managed to drown an assailant in his bathroom’s tub. He doesn’t know the code language used by the CIA and sheepishly asks the operator for directions to the secret rendezvous point. Very endearing.
Keira Knightley as fiancé Cathy is never left in the shadows as she struggles with her doubts about the secretive Jack; until of course she finds out he’s with the CIA, which is much better than if he were cheating on her. She’s even willing to help distract the bad guy while Jack infiltrates his office to find out his secret plan.
There are some very interesting scenes in the film. And what’s more they are set up realistically so you don’t have to take too many leaps of faith. The brilliant Jack Ryan may be a bit clumsy at first but he’s surefooted when it comes to deduction. Of course he finally manages to get with the program and act like a ‘hero’ but it is his naiveté and lack of that unnecessary attitude we see in ‘action heroes’ that is refreshing.
Kevin Costner as his mentor is subtle but effective. The old ‘heroes’ will always be classic and it’s nice to see them in their element (unlike the once-wonderful Harrison Ford who seems to be throwing away his lines in lousy movies like Ender’s Game).
Go watch Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit for a taste of what ‘young James Bond’ would be like.
PS: There’s some clever branding for Nokia Windows Phone in the film. Nothing shameless like Sony does in their films. Just good use of the product that effectively shows us its features without the use of in-your-face logos. Oh and yes I do have a Nokia Lumia and it’s wonderful!