The fifth film to feature the Jack Ryan character, this instalment attempts to rebrand its hunky spy for a new decade. We meet him as a budding university student in 2001, before the 9/11 attacks prompt him to sign up and head off to war, eventuating in an act of heroism that leads to his recruitment into the C.I.A.
Following turns by Alec Baldwin, Harrison Ford, and Ben Affeck as the titular Ryan, Chris Pine brings some of his Captain Kirk charisma to the role, but Ryan is a much more sensible hero than Kirk, and ultimately a bit of a blank slate. As his stock love interest Cathy, Keira Knightly feels somewhat out of place, only seeming engaged when tangling with the film’s villain, played by Kenneth Branagh (who also directed).
As shady Russian businessman Viktor Cherevin, Branagh has given himself the most interesting character in the film, and he makes the strongest impression, radiating an oily menace. Adding some gravitas to proceedings as Ryan’s boss is Kevin Costner, now comfortably enjoying the Wise Older Mentor phase of his career.
Branagh’s direction is never flashy, and he proves to be a dab hand at generating tension during the middle third of the film. It’s refreshing to see a thriller so unreliant on action sequences, instead choosing to focus on the quieter aspects of espionage, but it’s a shame that when the fight/chase scenes arrive they are so perfunctory, and occasionally downright sloppy.
Despite this, Shadow Recruit endears simply by being a solidly put together thriller. It’s never over-ambitious, content to be an easily digestible little bit of entertainment. As a fresh start for the character, it’s a modest success.
‘Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit’ Movie Review