Kenneth Branagh has a lot to live up to after Bourne and Bond. Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit is based on the character created by bestselling author Tom Clancy, an American writer best known for his technically detailed espionage and military science storylines.
The plot starts by following Jack Ryan (Chris Pine)’s background from 9/11, to his time in the marines, his recovery after injury and then his current job. Although it is refreshing to see the plot give us the background of the character from the start, all this extra detail took away the mysterious allure which we expect from spy film characters. It is disappointing to see Clancy’s famous attention to detail brushed over to forward the plot in its vigorous pace.
It then moves on to Ryan’s early days in the Financial Intelligence Unit of the modern CIA, where he becomes an analyst under the guardianship of his handler Harper (Kevin Costner). When Ryan believes he’s uncovered a Russian plot to collapse the United States economy, he goes from being an analyst to an operational spy in a matter of minutes and must thwart the Russians’ plans in order to save his own life and those of countless others, while also trying to protect his relationship with his fiancée Cathy (Keira Knightley). She’s a beautiful surgeon who helped nurse him back to health after his injuries and their relationship is more important to him than anything else.
For an action thriller, there was a lack of gripping actions scenes. Explosions – one pathetic attempt in water. Gun fights – seriously lacking in complexity. All this could have been forgotten if it was not for the lack of tension throughout. From the start it was known that the hero will triumph and save the day. If the audience felt that this was in doubt then the film could have been up there in status with Bourne. But to have done that the film needed to have a few surprises , perhaps by using a supporting cast more. With only four active characters, there was no one to kill off for the drama and thrills we were seeking throughout.
Even though the plot was not complicated, it was exciting in its simplicity and momentum. Kenneth Branagh (who plays the Russian Viktor Cherevin) has crafted a pleasing little mission. It was full of contemporary themes such as technology and ideas of economic terrorism. However, the film’s lack of mysterious and serious action means it will always live in the shadows of Skyfall and The Bourne Identity.