Chris Pine cleverly smashes his way onto screens this weekend as Jack Ryan, the star character of late author Tom Clancy in a modernized cinematic approach penned by Hossein Amini, a relatively unknown screenwriter and director. This is the first Jack Ryan film to be completely independent of a text Clancy himself wrote. The film, titled Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit, would probably be better titled That New Jack Ryan Movie or maybe just Shadow Recruit. I mean, no one would think to title a film James Bond: Golden Eye. Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit is the first of the major franchises to release and like the first students in class to present their projects, it has some gems hidden in the rough.
The film starts by establishing a rough and quick Jack Ryan origin story, featuring many characteristics loyal readers will be familiar with. Jack’s bad back, his degree in economics, his relationship with Cathy (who is now Muller, not Mueller) and his physical capability.
Pine’s boyish face and smart attitude makes him a shoo-in for the role of Jack Ryan, and he portrays the character with a fierce loyalty to the core of the characters. While the details and dates are moved around to better entertain a younger, more millennial audience, the analyst who calculates situations while acting on them is strikingly similar to his literary counterpart.
After taking his first step beyond Shakespeare with Thor, Kenneth Brannagh shows up to direct the film and star as the principle baddie, a seemingly literate… something. While Brannagh’s performance was a notch above average, the character was severely underdeveloped and vaguely non-threatening, besides having tight security and being in a fast-moving Range Rover.
Keira Knightley, a generally strong and independent actress who steals the screen spends the majority of the film waiting in the wings for a moment to shine. Her portrayal of Cathy Muller (not Mueller, like the books) is flirty and jealous. Even when she gets her moment, it is a moment owned by the patriarchy and her character is mostly used as a plot device to catapult Jack Ryan to the forefront of the action in a safe manner.
Kevin Costner plays a supportive role that beyond the first few scenes feels very rote, the necessary mentor and supervisor featured in every action movie. He plays a brilliant moment or two as he negotiates conflict between Cathy and Jack, then fades quickly back to the background.
Many of the threats the early literary Jack Ryan faced were from Russian, so a Russian villain was a nice nod to the books and a great step away from the incessant propaganda we see from Hollywood, as they often create villains out of whatever country we are at war with this week.
Overall, this film has everything you would expect an action movie to, from the explosions to the attractive leading man, his love interest, a computer heist, a car chase, close and far-distance combat, and the fate of the United States at hand.
The foreshadowing of Ryan’s future character arc is gently hinted at toward the end of the film, which left me with a slight smile on my face as the credits rolled and I put my jacket on. I would give this film three out of five stars. It was nothing special, but if you have time to kill and want to see explody things and Chris Pine play a verbal connect-the-dots of analyzing a situation and tracking someone down, it could be part of a Saturday afternoon.