Jack Ryan's Econo Warfare

Movie Review: Jack Ryan Shadow Recruit


* I write as an audience who’s new to the Tom Clancy/Jack Ryan franchise.

As spy thrillers go, this was far from the best. Chris Pine and Kevin Costner were compelling as characters, but ultimately, the rest of the movie was flat and forgettable. The stakes felt trivial and the action was seldom exciting.

Even Jack's ashamed of the movie.
Shadow Recruit tackles a subtle kind of warfare – one where the villains seek economic ruin. This movie is not your typical guns blazing, fists flying spy movie, but a more analytical one than most. I enjoy movies the let you exercise your brain muscles, but I wasn't able to appreciate the economic theme of this movie. Maybe it's because economics is my least favorite college subject, or that I wasn’t paying attention hard enough, or because of the way information was delivered to the audience – either way, at the risk of sounding dumb, I did not immediately get what was going on. I just kept expecting that it was all going to eventually make sense. (And it sort of did in the end), but through the first half or so of the movie, I repeatedly asked myself, “Say what?” every time Jack info bombs about the Russians’ schemes. And you just end up accepting that the Russians were the bad guys and they want to destroy America’s economy, never mind the finer details of how they were going to accomplish it. But maybe a second go around would make it easier to follow…

Poser spy.

If only there was a persuasive reason to watch it again. Jack Ryan was no super spy. The fight scenes were (understandably) crude. There were no grand sets, no crazy stunts, not even a pretty lady to want to see again (Yeah, Keira Knightly was NOT attractive in this.)

Her teeth really bothered me.
But Chris Pine delivered an adequate performance of fragile, neophyte CIA operative, Jack Ryan. And Kevin Costner was a total badass as Ryan’s seasoned, cool, tough as nails mentor and commander. Kenneth Branagh’s Ryan villain (like "Bond villain", except for Jack Ryan) was too unnecessarily (almost comically) nefarious. He would have fit a Bond movie, where there is  suspension of disbelief, but not in this movie’s grounded reality. Oh and Keira Knightly as Jack’s girlfriend just came off to me as a crazy girlfriend. It pulled me back from being invested in their love story for most of the movie.

These two made it worth watching.

Why'd you have to beat up your nurse?
So all in all, for fans of the spy movie genre, I wouldn’t recommend this. It no Bond or Bourne. Just watch Lone Survivor or Wolf of Wallstreet or Bride for Rent this weekend, people say those are pretty good. Shadow Recruit would be better off being watched on DVD where you can rewind and absorb the finer details of the plot.

From now on, I’m going to start scoring my reviews.:)


PS. (SPOILER) There was just one moment, at the end of the car chase scene where Jack smashes through a car window with a pipe, and Jack proceeds to punch the smile off of Kenneth Branagh’s face, that I really felt any gratification from the movie.

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