Action-packed thriller holds its own
By Carlos Razo
James Bond. Jason Bourne. Jack Bauer. John McLane. What do all these names have in common? Well, besides the letter “J,” these names belong to some of the screens greatest action heroes. While not a household name like those, Tom Clancy’s investment-broker-turned-CIA-agent Jack Ryan has appeared in a total of five films. Previously portrayed by actors Alec Baldwin, Harrison Ford, and Ben Affleck, Chris Pine (“Star Trek,” “Unstoppable”) takes his shot at joining those famous action heroes in director Kenneth Branaugh’s “Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit.”
After being injured in a fatal helicopter crash, war veteran Jack Ryan is recruited by agent William Harper (Kevin Costner) to join the CIA as an undercover financial analyst. Challenged by months of physical rehabilitation, Ryan meets his soon-to-be girlfriend, Cathy (Keira Knightley), and eventually takes Agent Harper up on his offer. Ryan soon discovers a massive financial conspiracy headed by Russian businessman, Viktor Cherevin (Kenneth Branaugh), who plans to execute a devastating attack on the American dollar, hoping to bring a second Great Depression. Ryan is forced into field work, utilizing everything he learned while he was in the military.
Pine is outstanding as Ryan, as he brings his natural confidence and intensity to every scene. While Ryan is a born hero, he does not feel as invincible as some of Hollywood’s most legendary action stars, which makes him relatable. Knightley is fine as Ryan’s significant other, but some will be distracted by her less-than-stellar American accent (they all have to try it once).
It’s Branaugh’s performance as Viktor Cherevin that stands out the most. He is terrifying, ruthless, and a fitting antagonist to our patriotic protagonist.
What kind of thriller would be complete without a few well-constructed action scenes? Luckily for viewers, “Shadow Recruit” offers just the right amount of this, and it is as well shot, edited, and performed as you could hope. Returning to traditional action movie roots, there are no digitally created Jack Ryan’s jumping out of cars. Instead, flesh and blood stuntmen drive, shoot, and dodge gunfire, making the action feel grounded and more urgent. Pine performs several of his owns stunts, which makes it feel even more real. The opening scene involving the helicopter crash featured some awful “shakey-cam” cinematography, but luckily, that is all the audiences are forced to sit through. The remaining camera work is smooth and lets audiences get a clear look at everything that is going on. While Branaugh’s chops as an action director proved poor in 2011’s “Thor,” this film manages to balance the action with solid character development and reignites Branaugh’s potential as a director.
“Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit” feels like it revives a franchise that never existed. At an hour and forty minutes, the film makes you feel familiar with the characters and hoping there is more in store for them. It has everything that makes audiences want to go to the movies, and while it may not reinvent the wheel, it definitely gets it rolling.