Tom Clancy’s Jack Ryan character has had a bumpy, yet satisfying, history on film. Surprisingly, only four films have been made from the nine official Jack Ryan novels. Since Jack Ryan has been played by three different actors — Alec Baldwin, Harrison Ford, and Ben Affleck — it seems only right to not just reboot the franchise with someone younger, but to also start from scratch. That’s exactly what Paramount has done with casting Chris Pine (aka Captain James Tiberius Kirk) to kick off the franchise from the beginning, and alas, the Jack Ryan films have begun anew in Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit.
With a quick scene showing Ryan in college at the London School of Economics during 9/11, we skip ahead to 2003 where his chopper is shot down in Afghanistan. Avoiding paralysis, Ryan is learning to walk again where he eventually falls in love with a medical student Cathy (Keira Knightley) and is recruited by William Harper (Kevin Costner) to join the CIA. For them, he will earn his doctorate and go undercover as a financial analyst where he stumbles upon a possible terrorist attack. Promoted to field agent, Ryan is sent to Moscow to investigate hidden funds within the Cherevin Group, run by Viktor Cherevin (Kenneth Branagh). Now, Ryan is in over his head and out of his league as he attempts to uncover the truth and save the U.S. from another attack and a second depression.
For anyone worried Pine is going to just be playing Captain Kirk in another franchise, rest easy. Pine gives Ryan a sense of insecurity and he’s truly traumatized after making his first kill. Screenwriters Adam Cozad and David Koepp have gone their own way with the Ryan character, at least in the fact that they’ve started him from scratch and haven’t adapted another one of Clancy’s novels. Branagh continues to show he can deliver stellar action films, on top of adapting Shakespeare, but does rely on a little too much shaky cam when it comes time for a few key action scenes. However, a brawl in a hotel room is brutal and intense and the finale is a real nail biter. Think love child of the Bourne and Mission: Impossible films.
Audiences need not worry about Jack Ryan being a January release. Paramount has clearly stated that it was moved back from its December release to avoid competition with themselves between this, Anchorman 2, and The Wolf of Wall Street. It deserves to do well and is a great change of pace from the typical January dump month releases. Considering how abysmal 2014 kicked off last week with The Legend of Hercules — a January film if there ever was one — it just got a shot of adrenaline and is right back on track. Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit kicks the new series off with a bang and hopefully additional entries will make our way sooner than later.
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