Chris Pine demonstrates flexibility in this Jack Ryan franchise reboot. Known chiefly as Captain Kirk from Paramount’s new “Star Trek” and its sequel, Paramount rightly bets Pine can lose Kirk’s arrogant tone in what ought to prove a box office winner. Perhaps it’s a sign of America’s mood when a dumb comedy like, “Ride Along,” brings in $41 million opposite the $17 million taken in by “Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit” on their shared opening weekend. However, standing at a 60 percent approval rating, “Shadow Recruit” will have staying power.
The film, a glossy affair centered on economic terrorism, is largely set in Russia, but mainly filmed in the U.K., home of director Kenneth Branagh, who co-stars as the Russian villain.
Although author Tom Clancy penned a number of novels based on CIA analyst/field agent Jack Ryan, only Clancy’s references about Ryan’s past, rather than his plots, are used for this origin story. The original screenplay is written by David Koepp (co-writer of 2012’s engrossing “Premium Rush”) and Adam Cozad, acquiring his first major film credit.
The film reflects our stateside concern about the tentative aspects of our economic recovery and receiving no comfort from the idea that a foreign power can collapse the value of our dollar. Whether the premise is or is not possible, this aspect of the film is occassionally forgotten during distractingly frenetic action set pieces. Though director Branagh loses control here and there, he often rises to the challenge, creating nail-biting momentum.
Keira Knightly shows up in role with little to do beyond exhibit independent spunk as the otherwise silly Cathy Muller, soon to be Ryan’s wife. Kevin Costner has the most fun as an aging CIA spook wearing a Navy uniform aiming to recruit and mold U.S. Marine Ryan following an injury Ryan receives from a helicopter accident.
When Ryan suspects a possible Russian plot to mortally wound America’s economy, he’s off to experience the motherland’s dangers and charms. Branagh appears as Ryan’s adversary, Viktor Cherevin, glaring down on Moscow from the security of his favored position in a high-tech, high-rise office.
Conspiracy buffs will be dazzled by Cherevin’s scheme to ruin the West, but a cliché backstory fails to justify Cherevin’s motivations.
Fun factoids, such as how to inflict maximum damage using a halogen light bulb, make you wish for the old incandescent ones, but, in another nod to technologically, the film takes the concept of an advanced spy van to new heights.
If the film meets Paramount’s expectations, there are several more Clancy novels based on Ryan waiting to be adapted to the screen. That’s good news for Clancy’s Jack Ryan fans.