In case you didn’t know, he’s an analyst.
CIA junior analyst Jack Ryan (Chris Pine) works on Wall Street in hopes that he may spot some dirty trading going on between big-time politicians and terrorist organizations, in hopes that he can stop a possible a terrorist attack if the situation calls for that. However, his latest bout of curiosity gets the best of him this time with one Viktor Cherevin (Kenneth Branagh), a smart, charming and rather sinister Russian who plans on taking down the whole economy for his, as well his own Mother Russia’s self-gain. But the problem isn’t that Ryan can’t stop this, it’s that he’s not too sure about it in the first place to stop it, that’s when his superior (Kevin Costner) decides to promote him to being a field-agent. That means Jack’s going to have to do a lot more than just talking, crunching-numbers and writing some valuable information down – he’s actually going to have to kick some booty! If the situation calls for it, that is. And more than likely, the situation does call for it, however, it gets worse once Ryan’s long-time girlfriend, nurse Cathy Muller (Keira Knightley), gets involved with the mission by pure accident and has to go through the same motions as her boy is going through, in hopes that she not only doesn’t get her or Jack killed, but thousands and thousands of Americans in New York.
There’s been a lot of chatter going on about this new Jack Ryan movie and even from the very start, I knew that none of it was deserved. See, January movies have the reputation for being terribly shitty, worthless, forgettable and only released so that the major-studios can make a quick buck; and rightfully so, too, because more than often not, that has been the case. But that’s the weird dilemma that Jack Ryan finds itself in: Should it have moved its release-date to being placed in the dreaded month of January, in which everybody is practically playing “Oscar catch-up”? Or, should it have tried to stick it out on Christmas Day like it was originally intended to be?
Well, to be honest, I can’t answer that question because, as we all know, there’s higher-powers out there in Hollywood that manage this type of stuff and no way in hell are any of them going to listen to a 20-year-old blogger, who is currently typing this now as we speak, in a Heisenberg T-shirt and polka-dot boxers. So yeah, obviously I have no say or pull, but it still brings up a big question nonetheless: Do all January movies have to be so shitty?
The answer is a resounding “no”; and I think that Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit is definitely going to turn-over a new leaf in hopes that we at least get a bit better-quality movies in the month in which time pretty much forgets about (especially for movie-goers).
Anyway, all of that business-talk aside, there is a movie to discuss here and like I hinted towards earlier, it’s not as bad as people are making it out to be, based solely on its release-date and rather vague trailers. And to be honest, yes, they weren’t all that promising to begin with but I knew that deep down in my heart, with the talent involved here, that I wasn’t going to be let-down. Because, let’s face it, each and every one of us were surprised by the fact that not only was Thor a pretty good movie, but it was a pretty good action movie. Better yet, make that pretty good action movie, directed by none other than Mr. Kenneth Branagh himself. Seemed very strange at the time, but in hindsight, it surprisingly worked in the way that a superhero movie, let alone a Marvel superhero movie needed to: It was fun, quick, punchy, humorous and had all of the drama only a dignified Shakespeare-thespian could fully understand.
Like we all know though, Branagh didn’t return for the sequel, which meant that he wanted to do this and I’m glad he did because for some reason, it feels a lot more “classier” with him around. It’s not like the movie harkens back to any of those old-school, 70’s/80’s/early-90’s thrillers, but it definitely reminds you of a good, old-fashioned thriller that doesn’t try to re-invent the wheel by any means necessary, but does try to give you enough jumps, thrills, spills, chuckles and fun for the whole time you spend with it. That’s why I think Branagh, despite a few hiccups here and there along the way, gets the job done quite efficiently, without ever focusing too much on the story, or the action. We get a nice-balance between the two and makes this feel like a thriller, with some substance for anybody that may be searching for some.
Also though, it should be noted that the guy knows how to rack-up tension pretty damn well, in certain ways I didn’t even know he had the capability of. For instance, there’s this pretty nifty sequence in which Jack Ryan goes from one building to another and has to hack into a computer-system; but while he is doing this, simultaneously, Chervin is getting worked over by Ryan’s girlfriend, with a clock just tick, tick, ticking away in the background. It’s a sequence in which we know how it’s all going to end, but we don’t know how the pieces are going to fall and align together, and to watch as Branagh keeps us guessing, while on-the-edge of our seats at the same time, truly is something fun to be apart of.
Branagh also does something smart in how he’s able to get a good cast together and make something, out of nothing. Mainly, the character of Jack Ryan, who, as we all know, has never been an easy character to pull-of. For one, he’s incredibly smart and has to make you believe that he can punch, and/or yell-out numbers like it’s what he was born to do, while also assuring you that he can kick some fine booty, if the situation ever calls for it. However, as hard as that balance may be to work with, Chris Pine does a very nice job in giving us both sides to this character, without ever losing the charm that’s made him such a lovable-presence in the first place. There’s some knowing-winks here and there, and you may even get a Captain Kirk-like wisecrack or two, but altogether, Chris Pine is Jack Ryan and if the franchise was to continue on with him in the lead role, I think they’d definitely be in some safe hands.
Everybody else is pretty fun, too, although I have to still give credit to Kenneth Branagh for keeping everything small and sweet for what it was. We only get a few big characters here and there, and the rest are all window-dressing – which is all fine, considering that the heavy-hitting, big characters are played pretty-well by the cast. I’ve never seen a director cast himself as the villain in his own movie, but for what it’s worth, Branagh’s pretty fun, charming and suave, in a “I’ll kill you with a blink of my eye” kind-of-way. He’s certainly hamming it up, but it’s all in good fun, which makes it a lot easier to enjoy. Same goes for Kevin Costner and Keira Knightley, who both play sides on Ryan’s end, while never making you so sure what they’re going to do next. Especially Costner who, by now, has pretty much cemented his role as the steel-faced, dead-pan guy you can call on to deliver what is basically exposition, but deliver it in such a compelling way, you’ll feel like you must need to listen. A lot of credit goes to Knightley, too, who is sadly given the role of the “annoying girlfriend who just wants love and attention from her boyfriend”, but handles it well, and in ways, gets her own chances to shine and show that she can stick-up for herself when the going gets going.
Still though: She’s no Anne Archer. Then again, no woman could ever be.
However, as much as I go on and on about this, I do have to state the fact that this is not a perfect movie by any means: there are a few times where the action gets a bit too indecipherable with all of the shaky-cam going on, and certain plot-points/twists are a bit confusing, especially to the common-ear. But in all, when it comes right down to making this a fun, action-thriller, that just so happens to be trying to catapult a new franchise onto the horizon, I have to say that I feel like we’re stepping with the right foot this time.
Now, granted, this movie could definitely bomb, and bomb BIG TIME at the box-office, almost to never be heard of again, but I for one hope that isn’t the case. If Branagh continues to direct, then I definitely don’t want this franchise to just stand and collapse with the blink of an eye; there is some nice, nifty details here and there that could definitely spin this story into some new foreign territory, in which we continue to see characters develop more, but also the action, along with the budget, get a lot wider and more expansive. Then again though, this could be all me just talking out of my arse by hoping for the best, while expecting the worst, so I guess we’ll just have to wait and see.
Consensus: Not the most memorable action-thriller involving spies you’ll ever see, but still fun, thrilling and exciting enough to make Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit a good time at the movies, as well as possibly the first of a soon-to-be franchise. Fingers crossed, people.
7.5 / 10 = Rental!!