"Jack Ryan Shadow Recruit" Review: Craig's First Take

Photo Credit: Photo by Larry Horricks – © 2013 - Paramount Pictures Corporation. All Rights Reserved

America loves spying, so much so we’re even doing it to ourselves now. In the hopes of rebooting a franchise, Paramount has set hopes that that love turns into some success for Jack Ryan, a character whose been played by future-Batman, Indiana Jones, and that guy whose trying to turn fighting photographers into an Olympic event.

Speaking of the Olympics, much of this film based off the Tom Clancy character is played out in Russia where Captain Kirk…err, Jack Ryan (Chris Pine), a financial intelligence specialist, has been assigned after he realizes something odd going on with the accounting practices of a Russian company.

This is a “Jack Ryan” that deviates from Clancy’s novels and not really based on one in particular at all. Ryan begins the film inspired to join the military by the events of 9/11, something that would be quite a feat since Clancy came up with the character in 1984. An accident lands him in Walter Reade Hospital for 8 months with horrific burns, a diagnosis that he may never walk again, but a very pretty physical therapist in Cathy (Keira Knightly).

Back to present day, not only is he walking again but he’s shagging the pretty physical therapist (Oorah!) and putting that PHD, genius brain to good use by investigating financial fraud for a man named Harper (Kevin Costner), who may or may not work for the CIA. So we’re off to Moscow to investigate those accounts I mentioned and he’s not there five minutes before someone tries to kill him.

Through circumstances I’m too dumb to understand, he also manages to figure out that the Russians are trying to collapse the value of the dollar, which could bring about another great depression, and even worse, prove all those morons selling gold on Fox News were right.

Written by David Koepp, who’s sort of a mother hen when it comes to setting up film franchises (“Jurassic Park”, “Mission Impossible”, Sam Raimi’s “Spider-Man”) although he really pulled a Casey Anthony when it came to rebooting Indiana Jones a couple years ago, and first time writer Adam Cozad set up a thriller that’s just as much fun watching Ryan, and the villain, here a Russian businessman named Viktor (Kenneth Branagh), try to one-up each other as it is watching the car chases, shoot-outs, and explosions. There are secret meetings and double crosses and characters show up to either help or complicate things further. There’s even one of those computer hacking scenes where you have almost zero clue what the character is trying to get but you know if he gets caught it’s all over.

Suspense is key and Branagh not only does a masterful job of doing his savage best with the villain but he’s also grown quite a bit as an action director since “Thor”. It’s all easy to follow and gets the job done. He also does a nice job of showing some of the exquisite locations around Russia, showing “Die Hard 5” that it’s more than just a frozen cesspool.

That brings us to Pine, who thus far has only really been popular in JJ Abrams “Star Trek.” It was looking like the Enterprise was the penis car he was going to ride right into middle age, doing Priceline commercials and talk/singing popular songs. But now he has another franchise under him and he acquits himself well as an action hero, although he’s somewhat bland, but the character is a boy scout so it’s excusable.

Don’t expect much political intrigue or romance (Do we have to have another CIA movie where the agent is keeping secrets from his girlfriend/wife? They always find out.), but it’s a serviceable thriller with a few good action scenes, great villain, decent hero, and enough clandestine spy stuff and hero/villain chess game to make for an entertaining night out. Whether that’s good enough for a franchise, we’ll have to wait and see.