Beer or Box Office: ‘Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit’

This movie review was originally published at USA TODAY COLLEGE on Jan. 24, 2014. Photo found here.

Tom Clancy may have died last October, but his most famous character lives on in a new reboot that markets the Jack Ryan character to a new generation.

Shadow Recruit is the first film in the Jack Ryan franchise to not be directly based on a Clancy novel, and it gives Ryan a new backstory. In this installment, Ryan, played by Chris Pine, is inspired to join the Marines after 9/11.

When he is injured in a helicopter crash in Afghanistan two years later, he can barely walk. He ends up wasting away in rehab at Walter Reed, trying to win over the affections of his physical therapist (Kiera Knightley, doing a perfect American accent).

While Ryan is in the hospital, Thomas Harper (Kevin Costner) seeks him out because of his financial analyst background. Harper wants Ryan to go back to school, get his Ph.D, and then work for the CIA doing undercover work to see if any other countries are stealing from the United States. Ryan accepts, and becomes a CIA agent.

Once Ryan does find something amiss, he travels to Moscow to find out if a Russian company is stealing money from the U.S. government. While there, he uncovers a terrorist plot to bring down the value of the dollar and cause the next Great Depression after an attack on American soil.

Directed by Kenneth Branagh, Shadow Recruit successfully blends multiple genres, a skill he exhibited with Thor back in 2011. But there’s hardly anything new here. Everything seems lifted form other movies. Which isn’t to say that Shadow Recruit isn’t enjoyable; it’s just too predictable to be groundbreaking.

Branagh also plays the film’s villain, Viktor Cherevin. The terrorist plot to destroy America is more relevant in today’s recession minded economy, but you never get the feeling that the villain is truly menacing.

Apart from the “ripped from the headlines” plot, the most interesting thing is how Shadow Recruitapproaches the relationship between Ryan and Cathy, his physical therapist/fiancé. Very few spy films have tackled what happens when an agent’s significant other finds out that they are dating a CIA agent.

This film somehow manages to do that without becoming a farce or being overly sentimental. Knightley’s one scene with Branagh at a dinner table is especially fun to watch.

The action scenes, while predictable, are still well done, and are very enjoyable. Pine is well adept at playing action stars, and seems at home in a role whose past inhabitants have been Harrison Ford, Alec Baldwin and Ben Affleck. If Shadow Recruit performs well at the box office, he could have another franchise on his hands.

Verdict: Beer. It’s a perfectly enjoyable movie, but you don’t need to see it in the theater to enjoy it. Wait until it comes out on Redbox and splurge on a six-pack for now.

Jake Harris is a senior journalism major at Texas Christian University in Fort Worth, Texas. Follow him on Twitter.

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