Tom Clancy’s working man hero, Jack Ryan, takes his fifth outing on the big screen but falls far short of the intrigue and thrills the character can provide. Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit, in sum, is a reasonably entertaining piece of cinema, but is without the depth and genuine thrills the previous adaptations of Clancy’s CIA analyst novels are capable of. Begun with Alec Baldwin in the role in The Hunt for Red October, a brilliantly engaging thriller, the stories of Jack Ryan were followed by two outings with Harrison Ford in the role in 1992s Patriot Games and 1994s Clear and Present Danger – both thrilling if flawed tales. Paramount sought a modest reboot of the series with Ben Affleck taking over in 2002s The Sum of All Fears which, despite a healthy $118MM domestic box office haul, was deemed a failure. The cinematic adventures were suspended until a second reboot was conceived by the studio in Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit. A non-Clancy story was reformatted to feature the Ryan character, but audiences were lukewarm to the result and Paramount might need to rethink its approach to the character entirely if it sis to find its alternative to the Bonds and Bourne’s of rival studios. A good starting point might be to abandon the notion that Ryan is a Bond or a Bourne type (though I must stress the casting of Chris Pine as Jack Ryan was a good choice).
Distributed By: N/A
Video Resolution and Encode: 1080P/AVC
Aspect Ratio: 2.40:1
Audio: English 7.1 DTS-HDMA, Spanish 5.1 DD, French 5.1 DD, Other
Subtitles: English, English SDH, Spanish, French, Portuguese
Run Time: 105 Min.
Package Includes: Blu-ray, DVD, Digital Copy, UltraVioletStandard case with slipsleeve
Disc Type: BD50 (dual layer)
Release Date: 06/10/2014
The Production Rating: 3/5
“You're not just an analyst anymore, you're operational now.”Following the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks on New York City, a young American student, Jack Ryan (Chris Pine) at London School of Economic decides to join the Marines. On tour, he equips himself admirably, demonstrating a penchant for intelligence awareness and strategic prowess, but during a routine patrol over Afghanistan, his helicopter is shot down and Jack is seriously wounded. Returned to the Unites States he undergoes intensive physical therapy and must relearn to walk. During his recover he develops a relationship with his physical therapist, Cathy (Kiera Knightly) and during while there, is approached by Thomas Harper (Kevin Costner), a seasoned CIA agent, and asks him to join the covert agency.
Jack begins his CIA career embedded in Wall Street, analyzing financial data and gathering information on suspected terrorist funding from the heart of the global financial industry. After years covertly gathering information, he uncovers suspicious Russian accounts, belonging to a powerful financial player, Viktor Cherevin (Kenneth Branagh). Ryan reluctantly heads to Moscow to perform an audit of the suspicious accounts, under the guise of a Wall Street auditor, and uncovers a deadly plot to launch a terrorist attack on American soil and orchestrate a financial collapse that would render the American economy paralyzed.
Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit’s greatest sin is aiming low. Tom Clancy’s working man analyst hero is likeable and capable as a low-key, intelligent operative uncomfortable in the action hero trapping. Here, with a largely generic script by Adam Cozard and David Koepp, Jack Ryan falls too easily into the brawling, action-inclined protagonist, at the expense of his everyman allure and vulnerable poise. In that regard, Harrison Ford’s portrayal as Ryan is quintessential, perfectly blending intelligence expertise with combat skills that tend to be more luck than precise. For all its capable production values and enjoyable portrayal of Ryan’s backstory (his lengthy recovery from a helicopter crash first spoken of in The Hunt for Red October), Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit falls entirely short of anything exceptional.
Director Kenneth Branagh, who also plays the role of the steely cold Viktor Cherevin, is a fine filmmaker. Proving himself as gifted behind the camera (his Henry V and Hamlet are brilliantly handled), as he is as an actor, (where his mastery of Shakespeare and of likeable characters in projects like Harry Potter and the fine detective series Wallander,) Branagh adds weight to the proceedings. And as the antagonist in Jack Ryan, he is again very good. His scenes with Pine and Knightly are highlights of the film, but his character’s purpose and plot are mostly shallow repeats of familiar conceits. Fellow supporting cast members Kevin Costner and Kiera Knightly are mostly background, short-shifting Costner’s season CIA operative as a suitable mentor for Ryan (this is his function here, but it’s taken for granted rather than earned). Knightly’s role as Ryan’s love interest – kept in the dark about what he really does for a living - is poorly written and as such, remains a weak point in the cast. Besides a few moments of strength and a little wit, her role develops as little more than a device when the plot requires and walks awfully close to being a complete waste.
As the title character, Chris Pine is rather good in the role. He has the requisite all-American bravura with both smart and capable intuition brimming in his performance. And he is very likeable. Given a weightier screenplay relying on the thrill of intelligence over the action of motorcycle and car chases, he could become a serious contender for the next generation of cinematic heroes. Given the relative poor performance of Jack Ryan at the box office ($135MM global take from a $60MM budget, with just a $50MM take in the US), a follow-up to seems unlikely – in the near term at least.
Paramount’s Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit is a pristine affair in high definition. Director Branagh filmed using 35mm giving the film a truly traditional cinematic texture and that is preserved on Blu-ray. Deep blacks, sharp contrasts, beautiful clarity and precise details are what you’ll find without exception. Moscow is rendered with particular skill showing off a more modern and sprawling city than I remember when I visited years ago. But the film is well-lit and there’s a distinct difference between the clean cut lines and bright of Cherevin’s offices to other locations. Overall, terrific to look at.
Video Rating: 5/5 3D Rating: NA
The English 7.1 DTS-HD Master Audio track is superbly rendered, dispersing the surrounding sounds of helicopters, emergency vehicles, and ferocious car chases with the requisite spread. Deep bass and LFE rip the lower end, pulsing with Patrick Doyle’s less distinct yet effective score. Action sequences will pleasingly stretch your home theater components. A fine, issue-free audio.
Audio Rating: 5/5
A modest but quite good collection of special features accompany this release, with the commentary and ‘Smartest Guy in the Room’ ranking among the better offerings.
Special Features Rating: 3/5
Audio Commentary by Kenneth Branagh and Lorenzo di Bonaventura
Jack Ryan: Smartest Guy in the Room
Sir Kenneth Branagh: The Tsar of Shadow Recruit
Jack Ryan: A Thinking Man of Action
Old Enemies Return
Deleted & Extended Scenes with Optional Commentary by Kenneth Branagh and Lorenzo di Bonaventura
Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit is a disappointment given the higher-quality cinematic outings of the Ryan character in the hands of Alec Baldwin and Harrison Ford. Sadly for Chris Pine, the script was not in the hands of the writer of those previous successful outings (Donald Stewart), and though having Ryan reborn for the 21st century makes sense, this was not the best way to handle his restart.
Overall Rating: 3.5/5
Jack Ryan is entertaining, passably, but so little following the roll of the credits stands out that it’s easy to see why it faded so quickly from cinemas. A sequel seems highly unlikely at this point, but never say never. Paramount was reluctant to green-light a sequel to the (far superior) Jack Reacher, and a sequel for that is now in development (though Cruise’s stature in the industry had a good deal to do with that). I’d like to see Chris Pine given more time to stretch into the Ryan role. Though Paramount may choose to wait a few years and try for another reboot with yet another actor filling the Jack Ryan shoes.
Reviewed By: Neil Middlemiss
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