Critics' Pick

Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit (PG-13)

Action/Adventure 106 January 17, 2014
By Stephanie Zacharek
With Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit, the latest entry in the somewhat patchy canon of Tom Clancy adaptations, Kenneth Branagh enters more realistic territory than his blockbuster Thor -- provided your idea of realism is elastic enough to embrace the adventures of a dutiful young CIA agent who races the clock to stop a megalomaniacal Russian financier from blowing up Wall Street. This spy flick is half silliness, half swagger, but Branagh's arms-akimbo impudence as a director makes it work. Chris Pine plays Jack Ryan, a promising young student at the London School of Economics until 9-11 changes everything. He joins the Marines and barely survives a chopper crash in Afghanistan, coming close to losing the use of his legs. Luckily, a young doctor-in-training at his rehab orders him to "Walk, damn it!" or words to that effect. And since she's played by Keira Knightley -- a woman with the eyes of a seductress and the jawline of an adorable baby shark -- he dares not disobey. Meanwhile, CIA elder William Harper (Kevin Costner, now in full-on silver-fox mode) recruits Ryan to work as a plant at a Wall Street firm, keeping an eye out for hinky funds transfers that could signal terrorist activity. Ryan accepts, eventually heading to Moscow for a field assignment, where he crashes a thug's head into a hotel bidet. Branagh orchestrates all this with Zeus-like aplomb: Bodies fly, taking chunks out of plaster, and Ryan is visibly shaken by his first kill -- the weight of what he's done hits us just when it hits him. Pine is a Jack Ryan whose patriotism isn’t likely to override his conscience.
Kenneth Branagh Keira Knightley, Chris Pine, Kevin Costner, Kenneth Branagh, Gemma Chan, Karen David, Nonce Anozi, Colm Fiore, Hannah Taylor-Gordon, Hulisita Salcedo Steven Zaillian, Tom Clancy Paramount Pictures