Filling the shoes of a character played by the likes of Alec Baldwin and Harrison Ford is no easy task for any actor to undertake, especially in a standalone, ‘prove-your-worth’ reboot. Chris Pine, who has definitely made waves with moviegoers since his casting as the legendary Captain James T. Kirk in J.J. Abrams’ “Star Trek,” ditches Starfleet and his phaser for a semi-automatic handgun and the most covert echelons of the CIA in Kenneth Branagh’s “Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit.” Though whether or not Pine has the grit and gumption to play the analyst-turned-operative is still up in the air as Branagh’s exciting yet convoluted film leaves much open for the character’s future in this modern-day reboot.
“You’re Not an Analyst. You’re Operational”
Pine plays the eponymous Ryan, a former Marine who, when recruited by CIA agent Thomas Harper (Kevin Costner), is thrust headfirst into the world of spies, espionage, and preserving the safety of the free world – all the while avoiding assassins, double-crosses and a somewhat-overbearing fiancé (Kiera Knightley). Though when he inadvertently uncovers a plot by Russian businessman Viktor Cherevin (Branagh) to cripple the US economy, he becomes the spearhead in a mission to stop the cunning Cossack before it’s too late.
Pine Plays Passably
Pine is the fourth actor to play Ryan behind Baldwin, Ford and Ben Affleck and, with this in mind, I was interested to see what he would bring to the table in terms of character originality and interest. Suffice it to say, I was quite surprised how much I enjoyed his performance as Ryan. He played it with a certain naïveté which never really let up until the film’s climax, where it felt as if he suddenly channeled his inner Bond (or Bourne, perhaps). Pine, under great direction by Branagh, delivered a believable young-yet-determined performance and you could certainly tell that he wasn’t playing a seasoned veteran of the field but rather an ordinary person who just so happened to get caught up in an extraordinary situation.
Costner was, all things considered, a mediocre mentor who was more or less the figurative and literal voice in Ryan’s ear for the majority of the film, guiding him through most of the film’s fast-paced and thrilling action sequences. The film’s action was quite exciting and it was enough to capture your attention and have you on the edge of your seat, even when it was choppily edited with quick cuts and the ever-annoying shaky cam. Branagh as the film’s antagonist was marvelous and I have to hand it to him- he pulls off a mean Russian accent. He plays the character with a confident calm and a menacing rage though I would have liked to see more done with his character in the screen time he had. Knightley was my weak link, though; I understand her character is confused and concerned as to why her fiancé is always away and doesn’t always tell her everything about what he does, but some of the things she says and does in the film are a bit too extreme.
Ryan… Jack Ryan
The film moves at a somewhat accelerated pace and you’ll have to pay close attention to certain phrases and scenes to unravel the mystery with Ryan, but, to be fair, you’re not left absolutely confused by the end credits as the film does a good job of nicely wrapping things up. The plot is your standard Clancy fare but, under a different light, could also be mistaken for your standard Bond fare. Speaking of Bond, I felt like this film had a few odd similarities to 2006’s “Casino Royale.” There were a few scenes, plot points and shots that felt as if they were slyly slipped from the pages of CR’s screenplay but that’s not to say this film is a copy of CR. Perhaps I’ve seen too much Bond for my own good – who knows?
Kenneth Branagh’s “Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit” is an interesting and exciting reboot to the classic Clancy character; the film portrays him as more vulnerable than in his previous outings and, should a sequel or franchise emerge, it will be interesting to see how his character develops. There is ample room for improvement, however, as the plot seems rather dated for its time and certain characters are best left forgotten but ultimately, it is good to see Ryan back in action after a decade-long hiatus.