Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit spies on Bond to replicate aspects and become re-Bourne. Clancy’s series of intense novels involving CIA analyst turned operative Jack Ryan have had several adaptations in the past. A film franchise that suddenly, after ‘The Sum of All Fears’, became dormant for over a decade. With cinema evolving and experimenting with action sequences, Jack Ryan had seemingly retired from fieldwork, unable to compete with the big boys. Then, a reboot was commissioned. This reboot, to be exact. Having no relation to any of Clancy’s existing work. An original story that had no limitations. The end result? Meh. It’s fine. But much like a shadow, it disappears in the nightfall of Moscow. After a spinal injury during Operation Enduring Freedom, Jack Ryan is recruited as a CIA analyst only to then be brought forward as an operative to uncover fraudulent behaviour from a Russian tycoon who seeks to collapse the American economy.
Actor/director Branagh proves he is a versatile talent. From tackling classic Shakespeare to whimsical Marvel productions. The thespian is a, and please do excuse the pun, Jack of all trades. Directing a plausible central scenario that feels apt for the modern financial climate. It’s not a case of constant combat for the sake of having two guys throw fists at each other, there is some intelligence buried within. An imminent financial collapse after a staged terrorist attack on Wall Street is credible, and Branagh’s sleek direction consistently places this scenario at the forefront.
The problem however, is Ryan’s transition between analyst to operative. The first half of the feature showcases some dedicated character development for Ryan and his fiancée. A barbed relationship weighed down by Ryan’s career secrecy which Muller convinces herself is actually participating in an affair. Then, Ryan goes to Moscow without any real explanation, because apparently he is the only person best suited to job. And gradually, with each passing minute, the spy thrills become more generic and less engaging. His first kill, despite having no training in fieldwork, is against a hitman double his size. Then, after confronting the sinister Cherevin in his lavish office, Muller decides to conveniently fly herself to Moscow to challenge her fiancé over the accused adultery. Unfortunately, she comes across as the most needy individual ever, likening Knightley’s usual prowess to a mere object. The CIA then involve her (let’s be honest, they wouldn’t) and it just becomes an absolute mess. Seamless infiltration leads to a mediocre car chase which then leads to the climactic punch out.
Each narrative stepping stone is executed to the most precise calculation, yet lacking genuine thrills. Several edited scenes were messy and obviously had no relation to the previous location, most notably the exploding van. However, Pine’s committed central performance was enough to level out these prominent errors, even if his tense face exudes a constipated look and thus further distracting me. Knightley’s talents were offensively wasted, and Branagh’s heavy Russian voice resembled a mediocre pantomime villain. He’s no Vladimir Putin, let’s just say that.
As a reboot, Shadow Recruit didn’t exactly tear down the Kremlin with its tour-de-force spy shenanigans. Yet it’s not terrible in the slightest. Jack Ryan, much like the man himself, is fine. Enjoyable to watch, but utterly forgettable the next day.