Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit

00:00 January 26, 2014
By: David Vicari
[Courtesy of Paramount Pictures]

** out of ****

Based on the character created by the late Tom Clancy in books like The Hunt for Red October and Patriot Games, Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit is basically an origin tale showing how Ryan (Chris Pine in a bland performance) becomes a crack CIA analyst. The tired plot has Ryan, in a post-9/11 world, uncovering a terrorist plot, this time perpetrated by the Russians, in particular billionaire Viktor Cherevin (Kenneth Branagh, who also directs). This being his first real mission, Ryan is green but has the guidance of veteran agent Thomas Harper (a quite good Kevin Costner).

An extraneous subplot has Ryan's girlfriend, Cathy (Keira Knightley), thinking he is having an affair as he is engaged in spy detail. This means that Cathy will be injected into the main story so she can eventually be the damsel in distress. It's a thankless role for the talented Knightley.

Shadow Recruit is loaded with action scenes, but they are standard car chases and the like. There is not one action set-piece here that is unique and memorable. And it doesn't help that director Branagh (Dead Again, Thor and several Shakespeare adaptations) thought that shaky camerawork would be a good idea, and it's done in such an extreme degree that it comes off as a parody of that "style" of filmmaking. The camera wanders away from the central character for split-seconds at a time and the focus would purposely go in and out on occasion. It's like the camera operator suffers from attention deficit disorder and, just before shooting, decided to drink ten cups of coffee. This drives me nuts! I don't buy this faux hectic style. It generally takes me out of the picture instead of pulling me in.

Shadow Recruit is a generic spy thriller that is easily forgettable. A more rewarding day would be to stay home and watch The Hunt for Red October.

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