Published Jan 17, 2014Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit is an entertaining though unexceptional thriller pitting the CIA's Jack Ryan against Russian terrorists who conspire to blow up Wall Street and sink the American dollar into oblivion. Kenneth Branagh succesfully pulls off double duty as the director and the heavy Viktor Cherevin, though his bad guy is one-dimensional and we never really know why he hates the Yanks.
Does it matter?
Branagh as director delivers a regular stream of badass car chases, bone-crushing fist fights and general mayhem to keep our eyeballs glued to the silver screen. Keira Knightley shines as the obligatory love interest, playing Ryan's girlfriend (an American), though the film never explores their relationship in any depth. Kevin Costner nicely serves as the wise, older boss to Ryan. The only weak spot in the cast is a crucial one, Chris Pine, as Jack Ryan. He may be good-looking, but his presence and performance are thin. In particular, he pales next to Branagh in their scenes. Branagh proves that a good screen actor expresses more by doing very little. His performance is precise and controlled and lifts a flimsy character.
Jack Ryan films are purely action flicks and this one has its shares of disposable thrills. This isn't Shakespeare or Kurosawa; it's a fun romp. Expect no more than this when you take your seat.