Tom Clancy’s character of Jack Ryan has appeared in nine novels and now a total of five screen adaptations but the latest is not based on a novel but an original story, and even judged on its own merit does not reach the mark. Sometimes complete nonsense can be fun like the Bourne franchise or even some of the Jason Statham or Liam Neeson action thrillers but Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit (2013) commits the greatest sin in the action genre: it was dull!
Taken in by the American dream after 9/11, economics student Jack Ryan (Chris Pine) joins the US Marines and consequently gets blown out of the sky while invading Afghanistan narrowly avoiding being permanently paralysed. He is then recruited by the CIA in the form of a very dapper looking Kevin Costner and charged with going undercover on Wall Street and investigating suspected ‘anti American’ bank accounts. Ten years passes when his work eventually lead’s him to Russia (who you will notice from the media are the baddies again) where arch ‘comic book’ villain Kenneth Branagh, sporting a real dodgy Russian accent, is trying to bring down the American banking system. Obviously nobody told him that the Americans are quite capable of bring down their own financial institutions without the help of a foreign power!
Branagh is not only responsible for one of the least believable villains on screen of late, but also the poor man is to be blamed for the films direction. Considering he has been acting since 1981 and directing since 1989 he should have ‘done a lot better’ as they used to say in school reports! Chris Pine, who is probably best known for his role as James T Kirk in the two new teenage reboots of Star Trek, is completely emotionless as Jack Ryan and gives the character no depth. I hate to say this but Keira Knightley is also completely wasted as Ryan’s love interest. To add to the misery the plot suffers from a muddled and unimaginative story line.