Movie fans refer to January and February as the worst time to be a moviegoer. It’s not surprisingly to see why. The early months of the year don’t seem to fall in either awards season or the summer movie season; therefore movies released in this time of the season don’t seem to have any place. However, occasionally a film will be released in one of these months and still manage to be good, such as Cloverfield or most famously of all Silence of the Lambs. While Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit is hardly Silence of the Lambs, it is a very fun film that is one of the better January films released in recent memory.
Kenneth Branagh has solidified himself as a great director of action films, as both Thor and Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit are both well directed films. While Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit isn’t quite as intricately written and directed as The Hunt for Red October or Patriot Games, Branagh manages to work in an interesting plot and leave room for some great action sequences. Jack Ryan as a character is well defined throughout the film and the action rarely becomes more important situations.
Branagh also does an excellent job at directing action sequences. While the sequences are generally pretty creative, quick shots and shaky camerawork ruin some of the scenes. However, Branagh manages to keep the tension running at lightning fast pace throughout the film, even in the slower scenes. However, there are still many scenes in which characters are able to express emotions and keep the emotional core of the film solid.
Chris Pine does an excellent job as Jack Ryan. Pine resists both the urge to be Captain James Kirk in every role he ever plays and the urge to play Jack Ryan in a similar way that Alec Baldwin or Harrison Ford. Instead, Pine plays a unique version of Jack Ryan that combines patriotism, love for his wife, fear of terrorism, and sense of duty. Jack Ryan is a complex action hero, and Chris Pine portrays him wonderfully.
The supporting actors all do a good job. Kevin Costner, who has finally accepted that he isn’t a leading action star anymore, does a great job as Ryan’s mentor and embodies the entire world Branagh has created perfectly. Kenneth Branagh himself does a great job as the villain, bringing elements of humanity to the action packed film. Keira Knightley also gives a good performance; Branagh sets up an interesting back-story that helps give her character more depth and makes the role less generic than expected.
One of the best aspects of Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit is the fact that it gives the audience a modernized and more mature version of Jack Ryan. Bringing any character into a post- 9/11 world is difficult, but the film manages to make it work, especially when using economic terrorism as the villain. The entire origin story of Jack Ryan is well done and has an appropriate amount of screen time.
The film is not without problems. As previously mentioned, the shaky camerawork and quick cuts make some of the action sequences disorienting. Also, even though the amount of heart in the film is one of its virtues, at times it becomes borderline cheesy.
Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit isn’t anything remarkably original, but it is a very fun film. Good acting, directing, and writing make the film much better than the usual January films. While nothing in the film shouts groundbreaking, Kenneth Branagh delivers a very fun movie that would benefit from sequels. Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit is a great action movie that shouldn’t be overlooked. Grade: B