Zack & Nick's Culture Cast

Digesting the lowest rung of pop culture so you don't have to!

Jack Ryan: Shadow Review

Over the past few months, I have seen a variety of movies, and I want to talk about them all.  With the holidays and things in my personal life, I haven’t been able to!  But, starting today, I will have a better opportunity to get to all of these.  So, I begin today with my review of 2014’s Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit.

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I don’t really know much about the Jack Ryan character.  I’ve never really read the works of Tom Clancy, and I’ve only seen various clips of the previous films (I am pretty sure that I’ve seen The Hunt for Red October, but never in its entirety in one sitting).  Because of that I went into this 2014 reboot of the series with no expectations.

I’ll admit I was looking forward to it when I saw early trailers a little over a year ago.  Kevin Costner is probably one of my favorite actors, and I do like Chris Pine and Kenneth Branagh.  I’d figure that I would at least be entertained.

And, for the most part, I was.  Truth be told, I wasn’t sure what director Branagh was going after.  The little I do know about the Jack Ryan films is that they tend to be more political thrillers as opposed to action flicks.  Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit is much more of an action film than I was expecting with a villain (also played by Branagh) who would probably feel more at home in a Bond film than here.   To be fair, this film is an original story and not based on any of Clancy’s original novels.  That might be why I found the heavier emphasis on action to be unexpected.

Whatever the reason, the film itself is a mixed bag.  Jack Ryan (Pine), a Wall Street analyst for the CIA, is sent to Russia to investigate some mysterious Russian-owned stocks.  It leads him to Viktor Cherevin (Branagh), an influential Russian businessman, who is plotting to crash the American economy so it could prop Russia up as a stronger world power.  Or something like that.

The first two-thirds or so work well as a techno-thriller.  The story is interesting enough, even though there are a couple of really strange character and plot beats (including a needlessly long prologue).  What works is that the actors are charming and charismatic enough to keep you invested in what is happening.  Where the movie goes wrong is the final thirty minutes when everyone seemed to take stupid pills.

Characters begin acting dumb and start making extremely questionable decisions for no other reason than to stretch out the movie.  The prime example is that Ryan and the CIA had the opportunity to take out the central villain, but they don’t.  And no reason is given.  Up until this point, every character (both good and bad) were competent at their jobs.  Then, suddenly, it is as if they stopped caring.

It was a really strange thing to witness.  I don’t know if the screenwriters just didn’t know how to end it,  how to get various characters from point A to point B, or just had ideas for sequences they wanted to do and didn’t care how they got to them.

I really want to recommend this movie, because there is a lot of good in it.  But that last half really destroys what could have been a fun little movie.  Unfortunately for those involved, Shadow Recruit failed to be successful at the box office which killed any potential follow-ups.  The January release date likely didn’t do it any favors.  I’m sure Hollywood will eventually try again with Jack Ryan.  Hopefully, they will be successful next time.

~N

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