Ben Oliver

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Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit

You’re not just an analyst anymore, you’re operational now.
15 January 2015

Is anyone that fussed about Jack Ryan? I’ve been a sort-of fan of the other films I’ve seen, but none of them have left me hankering for a reboot of the franchise. The Hollywood Gods have spoken though, so what will be will be. Chris Pine is now the fourth person to play the spy, with Keira Knightley as his girlfriend and director Branagh as the bad guy.

We see Ryan recruited by the CIA to work undercover on Wall Street. 10 years later whilst in deep cover he uncovers a Russian plot to cripple the US economy and has to go from a Wall Street desk-jockey to a James Bond-style action hero spy.

Shadow Recruit is inescapably bland. Branagh is a good director and the cast keep it together well, but the central character just isn’t that interesting. He’s really good at his job, but in a way that doesn’t really work on screen. It’s talent without pizazz.

The origin story is poorly dealt with. We did not need to see him get his degree in economics then go to the army because of 9/11, it bears no relation to the rest of the film. I know they are trying to set up a franchise, but why make it such a boring blow by blow account of what’s happened to him?

Show him working his job on Wall Street, being good at it, then getting a call from the CIA; time to go to Moscow Jack, shit’s going down. It’s not rocket science to drum up a bit of intrigue! Instead we literally see Ryan at war in 2003, injured then CIA recruited to go into cover, then a ‘ten years later’ slide before jumping into the plot, writing off the previous 20 minutes. The only relevant part is the fact he’s a spy under cover!

Anyway, this version of Jack Ryan seems unlikely to capture anyone’s imagination. If they can make a better scripted film to the same technical standard then it might be of some interest, but this isn’t a good way to kick off a new spy series.