Movie Review: Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit

Have you ever walked out of a film wondering to yourself if what you just saw was good or bad? You're not quite sure. Okay, it wasn't bad, not outright bad, but you're still not doing a fist pump and saying with a definitive voice of enthusiasm, "All right!"

This film is serviceable. Everything is there: good story, good acting, good cinematography, good direction, etc. But – and here's the but – it makes for good craftsmanship. Now, there's nothing wrong with good craftsmanship. An excellent T-bone steak with a baked potato can make for a good man-size meal and you'll push yourself back in your chair afterwards, let out a sigh, and undo your belt a notch. Now, a filet mignon? This is where I put the tips of several fingers to my lips and let out a loud smacking noise. Voilà, now that is a memorable meal. And that's the difference between a serviceable film, craftsmanship, and a great film, art.

This is the fifth in a series of films about Jack Ryan, the character created by Tom Clancy, but here, instead of being based on a Clancy novel, it is an original story. That story, for the record, was co-written by David Koepp, the fifth most successful screenwriter of all time in terms of domestic box office receipts with totals at just over $2 billion. I mention that as I always stress a good film starts with a good story. Chris Pine (the new Captain Kirk) is our hero with other notable names including Kenneth Branagh doing double duty as director and Russian bad guy, Kevin Costner as Ryan's boss, and Russian ballet start Mikhail Baryshnikov in an uncredited role. It's all good. It works. But somehow there seems to be a spark missing to make this a really good spy thriller. I guess you can't always bat it out of the park so here, we'll settle for getting on base.

As with any film, you must suspend your belief a bit to go along with the story. Spies seem to be able to do just about anything with a computer. While I might label this as far-fetched, the headlines about the NSA make you wonder if what's far-fetched may not be all that far-fetched. This may sound crazy, but I'm not kidding you, I have my webcam unplugged on my computer. No remote control spying on me as I stare at the screen and pick my nose.

The Series
Here's a short rundown on the various Jack Ryan films.

The Hunt for Red October (1990)
Jack Ryan = Alec Baldwin
Budget: $30 million
Box Office: $201 million
Rotten Tomatoes: 95%

Patriot Games (1992)
Jack Ryan = Harrison Ford
Budget: $40 million
Box Office: $178 million
Rotten Tomatoes: 74%

Clear and Present Danger (1994)
Jack Ryan = Harrison Ford
Budget: $65 million
Box Office: $216 million
Rotten Tomatoes: 82%

The Sum of All Fears (2002)
Jack Ryan = Ben Affleck
Budget: $68 million
Box Office: $193 million
Rotten Tomatoes: 59%

Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit (2014)
Jack Ryan = Chris Pine
Budget: $60 million
Box Office: n/a
Rotten Tomatoes: 62%

Final Word
It's a good film, definitely not a great film. It's good craftsmanship, but it's not art. You won't be wrong if you go see it, but I would wait and make it a Saturday night rental when you can make your own popcorn at home. And pause it when you go to the washroom. I am sure there will be more Jack Ryan films and like any series, there will be ups and downs. This is a respectable entry but let's hope the makers can return to the quality of the earlier films.

References

Rotten Tomatoes: Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit: 62%
It doesn't reinvent the action-thriller wheel, but Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit offers a sleek, reasonably diverting reboot for a long-dormant franchise.

Wikipedia: Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit
Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit is a 2014 Russian-American action thriller film, directed by and co-starring Kenneth Branagh and featuring the Jack Ryan character created by Tom Clancy. It is the fifth in the Jack Ryan film series and is also a reboot that departs from the previous installments. Unlike its predecessors it is not an adaptation of a particular Tom Clancy novel, but rather an original story. Chris Pine stars in the title role, becoming the fourth actor to play Ryan, following Alec Baldwin, Harrison Ford, and Ben Affleck. It is scheduled for release on January 17, 2014. This film is dedicated to Tom Clancy, who died on October 1, 2013.

official web site: Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit

Wikipedia: Jack Ryan (film series)
The Jack Ryan film series is an American series of thriller films based on the fictional character of Jack Ryan, who originally appeared in a series of books by Tom Clancy.

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