Wednesday, 11 June 2014

Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit

Well, it's about damn time Jack Ryan was back on our screens.

Author Tom Clancy created the character of Jack Ryan in 1984 with his excellent novel, The Hunt for the Red October. Since then and up until his death in 2013, Clancy wrote 9 Jack Ryan centric novels, with the character also appearing in a number of spin-offs. But beyond the novels that have been published, Jack Ryan has also been brought into the world of film. Though Ben Affleck tried his hand at the character with The Sum of all Fears in 2002, the real stand outs thus far were Alec Baldwin who played him in The Hunt for the Red October, and Harrison Ford who was Jack Ryan in both Patriot Games and Clear and Present Danger. But while those three films in particular are pretty awesome, we haven't seen the character on our screens for far too long. I always saw him as a James Bond-type character, but instead of being a smooth talking womaniser, Ryan is more of a smart badass who isn't afraid of getting his hands dirty. So after not seeing it upon release, I hastily bought the latest Jack Ryan outing on Blu-Ray. But with most Jack Ryan films so far setting the bar quite high, does this latest entry entertain?

Directed by Kenneth Branagh and out now on Blu-Ray and DVD comes Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit, a fun mixed bag of espionage, action and stereotypical evil Russians who say stuff like “nuclear wessels”. However, though this is the fifth time Jack Ryan has been on our screens, Shadow Recruit is a complete reboot of the character. Shadow Recruit focuses more on the origins of Jack Ryan. But while Tom Clancy did this in his novel Without Remorse amid a backdrop of the Vietnam War, Shadow Recruit not only brings the character’s origins to a modern day setting, but also completely rewrites them. This means that, though based upon Tom Clancy's character, Shadow Recruit isn't directly based off any of Clancy's work, but instead it's an original creation. When I first heard this alarm bells were ringing, but don't worry, Shadow Recruit feels like a Jack Ryan film.

Shadow Recruit focuses on Ex-Marine Jack Ryan, who now works as a CIA analyst under the guise of a compliance officer at a stock brokerage. His job is to seek out financial transactions that might hint at some kind of terrorist activity. After noticing some usual economic goings on within Russia, Ryan takes upon himself to travel to Moscow to look into it. However, after an assassination attempt on his life, he soon discovers a Russian terrorist plot that would push the United States of America to the brink of financial collapse. It all feels very Cold War-esque despite being set in more stable times. But all that goes out the window when Ryan arrives in Moscow. The best scenes in Shadow recruit come in two different forms. First you have those one-on-one, up close and personal fight scenes. They're excellent, and Branagh's tight direction keeps action fast, visceral and raw. Then there are the scenes that are right out of Mission Impossible, scenes that are just oozing with espionage and general spy thriller elements. It mostly impresses in presentation and direction both of which are, considering it was made for a small budget (well, a small budget for a Hollywood film), up there with Patriot Games. Everything from the cinematography to the music is just wonderful, and completely nails the atmosphere it’s aiming to create.

Performances across the board are largely good, though the only stand out role here is the villainous Viktor Cherevin, played by director Kenneth Branagh. Branagh sinks his teeth into the role, and ultimately creates something more than just a cardboard Russian villain. Chris Pine is a good choice for Ryan too, and it's particularly interesting to see a young Ryan, a man suddenly thrust into the world of espionage without the safety of being behind a computer screen. Pine is backed up by Kevin Costner and Keira Knightley, who, like Pine himself, do and good job but not exactly a great one. However, Branagh's fast paced and smooth direction helps prop up any lacking performances, which packs quite a lot into its short 105 minute running time.

Overall Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit, despite being generic at certain times, is an effective, thrilling and largely impressive return for Jack Ryan to the big screen. It may not be as good as the likes of Hunt for the Red October and Clear and Present Danger, but Kenneth Branagh's take on Tom Clancy's classic character is both worthy of its name and your time.

Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit is a slick reboot and gets a 4/5.


Denis Murphy

Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit at CeX

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