Jack Ryan, Generic Spy

I got my FREE ticket for this from Best Buy. Using it put me over the top for a FREE soda at Carolina Cinemas so I had a really nice afternoon.

Jack Ryan


Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit (2014) – Rated PG-13

Jack Ryan, as a young covert CIA analyst, uncovers a Russian plot to crash the U.S. economy with a terrorist attack.”

I loved many of Tom Clancy’s novels. I also mourned him before his passing as he had been letting other hacks write his novels for over a decade. While I did not always agree with his assessment of politics, he always had good reason for going in the direction he did. While Jack Ryan was his main protagonist, many many other characters served heroic roles in his novels, including reader favorites like John Clark and Ding Chavez down to individual secret service personnel.

Three of his best novels had already been adapted to the screen (The Hunt for Red October, Patriot Games, and Clear and Present Danger) with varying degrees of success as well as one of his lesser efforts (The Sum of All Fears). Jack Ryan was played by Alec Baldwin, Harrison Ford, Ben Affleck, and, now, Chris Pine.

Jack Ryan had plenty of warning bells. It is always a terrible sign to be bumped from a Christmas release to the celluloid graveyard of January. The title, Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit, smacks of franchise planning. The title is also horrifically generic. Chris Pine makes a great William Shatner but can he act? I enjoyed Carriers but it didn’t really require heavy lifting from Pine.

The movie begins with a couple scenes showcasing Ryan’s character and backstory – I was almost startled that it wasn’t a montage. A lot of what occurs seems intent on setting Ryan up for future sequels.

The first two-thirds of the movie run smoothly. The action is pretty and well-handled but evokes a serious deja vu. If you are going to make an expensive spy movie, then bring something new to the table like Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol did (a sandstorm chase, a climb outside the Burj Khalifa, a fight in an automated car park).

Chris Pine is a rather generic hero, in spite of the pedigree they establish for him. Kenneth Branagh makes for a good villain. Keira Knightley is nice too but contrast this with her stunning performance in Anna Karenina.

Extremely minor spoilers (the plot gives this away):

The last act of the film though is ridiculous in the extreme. I won’t post spoilers but knowing that an attack on the U.S. is imminent, some people have to fly from Moscow to the U.S. and apparently, there are no other people in the agency (or any other agency) who can handle this situation.

Jack Ryan is so smart that all answers have to come from him, in spite of the fact that he is a minor analyst/agent in the C.I.A. There is a nice montage as they figure things out but Clancy’s strength was that all efforts, good and evil, require an ensemble of characters. Apparently in the cinema world, a wrench (Jack Ryan) is the answer to all problems, mental or physical.

That’s not to say that Jack Ryan isn’t enjoyable. It just isn’t memorable so go, enjoy, and forget.



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