Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit - Blu-ray Review

'Somehow Hollywood has found a way to get Jack Ryan wrong.'

The incredibly frustrating thing with Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit is that clearly someone has looked at the past Jack Ryan films (particularly the two starring Harrison Ford) and decided correctly that the most interesting part of the core setup was the fish-out-of-water narrative structure, before deciding to ruin this entirely. Ryan, as a past character, is a bookish, scholarly analyst with a strong patriotic streak who finds himself, at one point, in an illegal war (Clear And Present Danger) and at another stalked by an IRA soldier (Patriot Games). Those films work because Ryan shouldn't be in those situations and has to cope and adapt quickly. It might seem simple (and it is) but it works and it immediately invests you with the character. Somehow though, new Hollywood has found a way to get Jack Ryan wrong.

In this new take on the character, directed by Kenneth Branagh the aim seems to be to nod to Ryan's learned background before ignoring it entirely. In this iteration Ryan (here played by Chris Pine) has his military background played up, giving him Action credentials from the off. By the finale, he's driving like a rally pro round Moscow and punching terrorists whilst hanging off the back of a moving, driverless vehicle. His expertise, meanwhile, is relegated to merely plot enablement. Ryan is in Moscow in the first place because he is 'the only one who understands the numbers', as one character puts it, but actually, he uses his intelligence to do little. Running and punching things is much more exciting.

With that side of Ryan dispensed with - the thing that makes him a potentially worthy and different character to build a franchise around - Branagh and co set about finding as many things as possible that will drag Shadow Recruit down to the level of James Bond impersonator. They start by writing in Ryan's love interest/future wife, Cathy (Keira Knightley) and promptly providing her with a female role that rivals Carey Mulligan's in Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps as amongst the most poorly written in recent memory. There is literally no reason why Cathy shows up at one point in the plot and having put her in harms way the entire cast then seems spectacularly surprised when the potential for harm comes to pass.

Shadow Recruit has apparently been on the writing block for some time and as it moves on, it begins to show. Branagh co-stars as well as directs but his semi-Comedy Russian villain (weaknesses listed as women and vodka) is one of his poorer creations. At one point he shoots a colleague for apparently little reason and at another he is fairly easily duped by Ryan, a man he has already labelled as 'dangerous' at their first meeting. So is Viktor Cherevin (Branagh) a violent sociopath, a stupid evil to be banally punished or a clever maker-of-millions terrorist? Those characterising him don't seem to care.

By the time Shadow Recruit reaches its end - by which point it has admittedly managed a handful of tense sequences - it has gone back to the original Ford films for inspiration, drawing on their patriotism for both the good and the bad sides of its plot. Even here though, this pales in comparison. In a memorable Clear And Present Danger scene an intelligent Ryan refuses to be fooled by a corrupt president. His interaction with the establishment in Shadow Recruit is a little different and speak to why this is a pale imitator to Ryans past.

By Sam Turner. Sam is editor of Film Intel, and can usually be found behind a keyboard with a cup of tea. He likes entertaining films and dislikes the other kind. He's on , Twitter and several places even he doesn't yet know about.

No comments:

Post a Comment