Reviews for the Easily Distracted:
Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit

Title: Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit

How Many Jack Ryans Is This, Again? Four actors have now played Tom Clancy's repeatedly born again CIA agent. If they step it up, they might pass the James Bond franchise.

Rating Using Random Objects Relevant To The Film: Two-and-a-half Red Octobers out of five.

Brief Plot Synopsis: Chris Pine attempts to reboot another franchise.

Tagline: "Trust no one."

Better Tagline: "Man, those Russians are a surly bunch."

Not So Brief Plot Synopsis: Young Marine lieutenant Jack Ryan's (Chris Pine) military career has just been cut short by a combat injury. Luckily, the CIA likes the cut of his jib, and they hire him to complete his doctorate, then plant him on Wall Street to look for possible terrorist linked finance activity. Soon enough he turns up something hinky with the accounts of Viktor Cherevin (Kenneth Branagh), a Russian magnate who has big plans for the U.S. economy (hint: he's not a fan of it).

"Critical" Analysis: The good news, if you want to call it that, is that Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit isn't nearly as dumb as its name implies. It has plenty of flaws, which I'll touch upon, but it's not exactly the giant, steaming turd it looks like from the previews.

Let's talk about those for a second, because they're completely baffling, and the misleading title doesn't help. There's nothing remotely "shadowy" about Ryan's recruitment: Harper (Kevin Costner), the CIA officer who hires him, straight up tells him he works for the CIA. *Twice!* And this after he admits he's not supposed to. The only way "shadows" figurs into it is because Ryan accepts Harper's job offer in the evening hours.

As for "trust no one," aside from the Mulder flashbacks I'm getting, JR:SR is just about the most straightforward "spy" movie I've ever seen. You've heard the expression "nothing is as it seems?" Well, here everything is as it seems. Exactly so, in fact. Cherevin is really bad, while Harper, Jack, and Jack's wife Kathy (Keira Knightley) are unimpeachably good. The CIA is such a noble institution, in fact, that Kathy is thrilled to find out Jack has been lying to her for three years about his secret life rather than cheating on her.

Although now that I think about it, isn't "I work for the CIA" exactly the kind of thing you'd tell your wife/girlfriend if you were having an affair?

And say what you want about Tom Clancy -- he was inordinately in love with technology; his geopolitical analysis was often laughable; he died last year -- the plots of his books at least occasionally went in unexpected directions. However, no one in Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit deviates remotely from point A to point B, often to the point of incredulity. For example, Ryan is clearly identified by Cherevin as a potential threat the minute he steps off the plane in Moscow (an attempt is made on his life), yet instead of getting the hell out of Dodge-devanya, he continues with his mission. Better yet, Harper allows Kathy to come to Moscow as well.

My favorite part, however, might have been when Ryan has to grapple with Cherevin's network security while "hacking" into his computer. I half expected him to mutter "It's a UNIX system! I know this!" under his breath.

But Pine is adequate as Ryan (better than Affleck, at any rate). Though I did find his stumblebum routine during his first few hours in Russia ("I was only on the Farm for three months!") a little at odds with his keen vehicular combat skills later on. Branagh is suitably creepy as the bad guy who almost gives Clancy what I suspect he always wanted: war with Russia. This will just have to tide us over until they make a miniseries out of Red Storm Rising. And the award for Double-Take of the Night goes to Mikhail Baryshnikov as a sinister Russian government operative (as if there was anything other kind).

I thought I'd hate this movie, but I didn't. To paraphrase Gunnery Sgt. Hartman from Full Metal Jacket, "Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit is silly and it's ignorant, but it's got guts. And sometimes guts is enough."

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