Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit [Blu-ray] Kenneth Branagh

Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit [Blu-ray] Kenneth Branagh
Slick and sleek is this action flick based on late writer Tom Clancy's Jack Ryan character. The popular franchise returns not as an adaptation of a Clancy novel, but presents a fresh table based on the lead character.

Screenwriters Adam Cozad and David Koepp turn back the clock and show how 9/11 eventually shaped Jack Ryan (Chris Pine) into an undercover C.I.A. fiscal analyst. In a prescient move, the writers chose the Russians as the bad guys, as personified by Kenneth Branagh. Branagh does double duty by directing this film and playing its heavy, Viktor, who is hell-bent on destroying America through its financial markets. All this is an excuse to showcase pyrotechnics that take place in exotic locales from the Kremlin to Manhattan. Meanwhile, Keira Knightley hangs on Pine's arm as the obligatory love interest.

Branagh delivers a strong performance and Knightley's American accent is convincing, though her character is thinly written. Script and characterization are secondary. Essentially, Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit is eye candy that will show off your home theatre system. Dazzling, yes. Shallow, definitely.

The Blu-ray, however, is packed with bonus features. Branagh and producer Lorenzo di Bonaventura offer many tidbits about making the film in their infectious, intelligent commentary. It makes up for three vapid featurettes that are supposed to take us behind the scenes, but amount to a non-stop parade of ass-kissing for stars Branagh, Pine and Knightley. Far meatier is the 21-minute "Old Enemies Return," in which Branagh, the producers and political scientists explore the Cold War between the U.S. and the former Soviet Union and present Russia. Alas, none of these goodies appear on the DVD found in this bundle.

If you're looking for forgettable, escapist action, Shadow Recruit is for you.