Director Kenneth Branagh, once known only for tackling projects in the realm of classic literature, seems to have been bitten by the action bug lately. Returning to the genre, after getting his feet wet on Marvel's Thor, he once again proves himself capable of helming a blockbuster action tentpole — even if he's still a little green behind the ears. Early on in the film, as Harper is watching Ryan wince his way through physiotherapy, in the wake of suffering debilitating injuries in Afghanistan, he's asked if he thinks Ryan will ever walk again and replies, "Only if he decides he has somewhere to go." Shadow Recruit does have somewhere to go, and Branagh knows how to get it there — but he speeds to its endgame at a pace that tends to diminish the impact of its events, pausing the action mostly to show just how far out of his depth Ryan is on his first mission. The quick pacing does benefit the film by handing it a constant momentum that, in turn, generates the tension necessary to sustain an action thriller; but its brevity in comparison to the far-reaching scope of the events within makes it feel like but a snippet of a larger story.
3.5 out of 5.