Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit opens on 9/11/01 with Ryan (Pine) in college in England. We then cut to Ryan in a helicopter over Afghanistan in the military. The helicopter is hit, and he saves his two fellow crewmen. He has a severe back trauma that leaves him almost paralyzed. His rehabilitation doctor is Cathy Muller (Kiera Knightley). While there, he catches the eye of Thomas Harper (Kevin Costner), of the CIA. Ryan begins to walk and run, and is offered a covert job with the CIA. He is to analyze bank transactions on Wall St and look for irregularities. We jump another eight years, bringing us to “now.”
Ryan finds an anomaly with a Russian partner with his bank. He is instructed to find his way to Moscow to run an audit and track the money. His now live in girlfriend Cathy wants to go, but is denied. So, they decide to meet in Paris when his work is done in Moscow. Upon his arrival in Mother Russia, his chauffeur Embee (Nonso Anozie) attempts to kill him. Now, Harper arrives in Moscow because this mission just got serious. Ryan meets with the head of the bank Viktor Cherevin (Kenneth Branagh). Cherevin quickly shows Ryan that the questionable money and assets has been disposed of, and there is nothing to worry about. He also informs Ryan that Cathy has arrived at his hotel and they should go out to dinner that night. Now, Cathy is dragged into the mission as she finds out Ryan’s dark secret, he is in the CIA. Ryan uses his super-powered brain to deduce the entire evil Russian plot on an airplane back to the USA.
Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit is a mess of a film. The opening twenty minutes of backstory is thrust upon you. We are supposed to connect with Jack because 9/11 affects him. Then, he is a hero in Afghanistan. Now, he leads a covert life with his doctor girlfriend. Then, we are thrust into some huge global conspiracy. Jumpy, jumpy, jumpy. The core plot is decent enough, but it gets lost in the mess of the rest of the film. This story does not come from any of the books written by Tom Clancy, and it feels that way. The previous films are all well thought out and have depth to them. Shadow Recruit never seems to get its feet under itself. This could be attributed to the plethora of rewrites it has gone through. The final script is attributed to Adam Cozad and David Koepp. If this is the best script through all of the development hell this movie went through, the other drafts must have been truly awful.
The action is over the top, and downright stupid at times. Branagh is not really known for his action films, but did a decent job with Thor. This time around, the magic and mysticism is absent. A lot of the acting is off as well. Pine puts on the same performance that he does as Capt. Kirk, with a little less bravado. Kevin Costner’s Harper is no replacement for James Earl Jones’s Admiral Greer, but he is not too bad. Branagh is a great villain, even if the accomplished thespian’s Russian accent does not suit him. Then, there is Kiera Knightley. I hate her. I hate the way she moves her mouth. I hate her acting. I hate her in this film.
Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit ruins what it has going for itself with terrible action, and an overly complicated and convoluted plot that plays out too neatly. I am not sure that this will cover its modest $60 million budget domestically. Paramount will have a hard decision as to whether or not continue this second attempt to reboot the franchise. Ben Affleck’s film was financially successful, but was unable to ignite a franchise. Bottom line: There are better thrillers, better action movies, and better adventure films than this. Yet, it is way better than Die Hard 5.