Film Review – Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit (2014)

Kenneth Branagh is excellent as

Kenneth Branagh is excellent as Viktor Cherevin

Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit

Directed by Kenneth Branagh

Starring Chris Pine, Kevin Costner, Keira Knightley, Kenneth Branagh

Review by Jordan

Kenneth Branagh is a better actor than director, that’s a stone cold fact; as Viktor Cherevin in Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit he steals every scene he’s in with a menacing stare, enigmatic character background and imposing presence. His choices behind the camera however, as well as the writing talents of Adam Cozad and David Koepp, and acting skills of leads Chris Pine and Keira Knightly leave much to be desired…

The story of Lieutenant in the Afghanistan War turned financial analyst for the CIA Jack Ryan, who happens upon a Russian terrorist plot not dissimilar to 911 to begin a new Great Depression in the USA and with his mentor William Harper (Costner) travels to the Motherland to bring Cherevin and his diabolical plot down, can basically be summed up as a rapid succession of cliches accompanied by the most annoying screen couple this side of Ben Affleck and Kate Beckinsale in Pearl Harbor. As the titular hero and Tom Clancy creation Pine isn’t terrible per se, in fact his roguish charm does elevate a number of scenes where levity is needed, but with her utterly irksome smile, lack of subtlety and grace and terribly underwritten/unimportant role the awkwardly strung Knightly outstays her welcome after a mere 5 minutes, before hanging on for another 100. The experienced heads of Costner and Branagh can only do so much, and if you feel a sense of hope and anticipation when the great character actor David Paymer (Drag me to Hell, Quiz Show) makes an appearance, dash it immediately, as he is allowed only one brief scene in which to make an impact.

Oh how this could have been better if Knightly stuck to her romantic dramas… have I mentioned that already?

Seriously... what is that? What emotion is she meaning to convey?

Seriously… what is that?

Despite all of these glaring negatives however, I do believe that there is an audience for this film. Fans of action and tales of conspiracy will no doubt lap up the contrivances here, and mounting unbelievability brought on by endless coincidences (the main villain has an obsession with obtaining married or engaged women, a miniscule bit character’s motorcycle is important at just the right time and you have to love Cathy’s expert spotting of the photo of Wall Street that the expert agents around her all dismissed), and the pace retains solid movement throughout, even when the audience is subjected to what seems like endless incomprehensible talk of markets and buying and selling something-or-rather in order for whatever to happen. 90% of Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit is exposition, and the remaining 10% is horrible.

Ultimately, surprisingly and perhaps hypocritically however I left the cinema having enjoyed myself. This is not a good film, but its plethora of issues are equal to that of any Steven Seagal or Jason Statham actioneer, and as it’s problems are in the same mould I could never take it any more seriously than I would a straight to disc shocker, thus eradicating any disappointment I would have otherwise felt. Will I willingly pay money to see the expected sequel? Not a chance. Am I glad I got to attend an advance screening with my friends? Sure; as the great Randal Graves once said (well, the gist of it anyway): “I hate people, but I love gatherings… isn’t it ironic?”

Predictable, unfathomably silly and needlessly complicated, Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit is not a promising beginning to a new franchise, but with its pro-US propaganda and attractive leads one gets the impression it doesn’t particularly matter what I think.

2.5 Napoleon references out of 5


22 responses to “Film Review – Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit (2014)

  1. Predicted that this would not be very special. I was bored during the trailer. A trailer is not supposed to bore people. I will say that the villain sounds interesting, according to your review. Which was well written by the way!

    • Agreed, the trailer was rubbish, and completely forgettable. If you get a chance it is worth seeing for Branagh as a great villain, and its always nice seeing Costner back in action. Plus playing ‘spot the cliche’ is great fun here too.
      Cheers, Jordan

  2. Better actor than director? Could be accurate…but he’s a very good director when in his wheelhouse. Love his “Hamlet” and “Much Ado About Nothing”. Also “Henry V”(I can’t simply say ALL of his Shakespeare, because “Love’s Labour’s Lost” is, at best, a mixed bag). Half of “Thor” stinks though. Acting-wise he’s usually solid, but he can occasionally get too “stagey” on screen. That being said, I am NOT looking forward to this film. ML

    • Solid points there Mr Leonard. I agree that he has made some fine films (Jack Ryan not being one of them, Thor being OK), but his presence in front of the camera I believe is criminally underutilised; Valkyrie in particular being another in which he shines.

  3. I enjoyed this slightly more then you did.

    It is in no means a movie to tell people to go and watch as there is nothing in it that stands out.

    However I had no problems with either lead and thought keira played her part just fine.

    Most movies can be picked on for cliches, plot holes and things that are too coincidental. But that is what the action genre is made up of and the same can easily be said by the likes of mr bond and any other major action star.

    Mr ryan does nothing new or memorable but as u said he entertains. Its definitely watchable and a good family action movie but again like you’ve stated is nothing to get excited about.

    So aside from your criticism of its leads and minor comments on the cliche – I agree with you review.

    • My problem is that logically speaking 3 stars indicates an above average film, yet everything about the structure, plot and heroes of Jack Ryan screams fast-paced mediocrity, without a hint of originality.

      … and then there’s Knightly. Just look at that above photo and try to decipher what type of emotion she is trying to convey.


  4. Typical action movie with nothing much (if anything) original. By the end of the movie i was having more fun picking faults in the unrealistic action manoeuvres, the precision of exchanges between passing undercover operatives and the incredibly convenient timing of occurances playing right into the hands of the hero. All in all i had a great time, proving it doesnt matter what activity you do with friends that its the company you enjoy most. I must say thanks to my mate, Gordo for the free ticket too.

  5. I have never been into any of the Jack Ryan films that have been made, but I was hoping that Kenneth Branagh made it a must to see… Apparently not,such a shame…

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