Ladies and gentlemen – welcome to the most pointless film of the year.
I’m struggling to know where to begin with this. This is the most horrible, clichéd ridden film I’ve ever seen and the disappointing thing is that “Jack Ryan” is labelled all over this. Trust me, this film is no The Hunt for Red October or Patriot Games or Clear and Present Danger. Even The Sum of All Fears is better than this! Not blaming the actors but the material they were given did them no favours.
There are so many issues with this film and the first one I’ll address is Jack Ryan himself.
This is clearly a reboot of the character. The film starts off in London where a young Jack Ryan (Chris Pine) is studying at the London School of Economics. 9/11 happens and that motivates him to join up with Marines. He’s later injured on duty and is forced to go through rehabilitation lead by his doctor and future wife Cathy (Kiera Knightley). A CIA handler named Harper (Kevin Costner) recruits Jack to go undercover in Wall Street to uncover any terrorist plot via dodgy financial transactions – yadda yadda yadda…you know the story.
The premise itself doesn’t sound bad enough but the problem is that they’ve tried to turn this into another Jason Bourne movie – a poor one for that matter. Remember, Jack Ryan is an analyst – an everyman hero. So to try and engineer him as this b*stard clone of Jason Bourne feels strange. He goes from analyst to fully operational spy in like seconds (I’m exaggerating but you get my drift). He suffers a bad injury during his Marine days and seems to perform heroic stunts without ill effects. When Jack Ryan was in analyst mode, he didn’t do much of that either, so don’t expect intense discussions of the character trying to prove his theories. It was basic or as highlighted in one scene on a plane, the mystery was solved in five minutes! This interpretation of Jack Ryan is the furthest departure from what we’re familiar with. The new version doesn’t allow the audience to connect with the character besides obtaining very simplistic and formulaic knowledge about him.
Moving around in the dark, acting like you’ve been followed or obtaining clandestine orders does not make a spy movie. Spy movies should be complex, thought provoking and engaging, filled with truths and misdirection. That’s what the original Jack Ryan films had, set against the backdrop of political intrigue and conspiracy. Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit hands all the answers on a silver plate, leaving nothing to the imagination for the audience. It operates as a spy movie for beginners (or for dummies if you want to go a step further).
Jack Ryan: [to Harper, while arguing with his wife] “Could you give us a minute?”
William Harper: “No. This is geopolitics, not couples therapy.”
Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit is your typical, corny spy movie, relying heavily on coincidences and good fortune that somehow are intertwined with Jack Ryan’s girlfriend, Cathy.
There is no point for this character to be in this film. Through the entirety of the movie Cathy suspects that Jack is hiding something from her because she doesn’t know that Jack works for the CIA covertly. She finds an old cinema ticket in his suit pocket and suspects the worst, even when she confronts him about it. She undertakes a trip to Russia, is somehow allowed in Jack’s hotel room (which is probably against hotel policy) and quickly becomes another unnecessary, convenient plot line where she’s involved in the mission. She starts to help Jack by creating a diversion by “seducing” Viktor Cherevin (Kenneth Branagh) during a dinner scene and then comically gets kidnapped by him. Seriously – there is no point in this character! She offers no value except annoyance and stupidity.
Then you have the character of Viktor Cherevin, a character so clichéd with bad one-liners that his character might as well be in a competition with the villain from A Good Day to Die Hard to see who can outdo each other. If you want a stereotypical Russian that drinks vodka and probably wouldn’t look out of place in a 70s Bond film – Viktor Cherevin is your man! I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry at his conversation with Cathy when he was kidnapping her. Branagh’s dodgy Russian accent didn’t help matters, almost taking you out of the scenes.
Viktor Cherevin: “You Americans like to think of yourselves as direct. Perhaps you are just rude.”
Jack Ryan: “You Russians like to think you’re poets but perhaps you’re just touchy.”
If you’ve watched this film and thought Kevin Costner was the only thing decent despite playing a character that was limited and under developed, you know something is wrong.
The truth is…I can’t take this film seriously. I wish I could, but I can’t. I love spy films but I became bored because of the endless and clichéd plot points that had crater-sized loopholes. Originality went out the window, borrowing very familiar elements from other films and not sure on how best to use it. It’s not even a good dumbass action movie. Did five year olds write the script because it’s abundantly clear that this film was something else entirely and the makers slapped on the “Jack Ryan” tag so it sells. I’m not easily fooled.
The film harps on about The Cold War and past endeavours but it’s over and it certainly lacks any kind of substance to make this believable and relatable in today’s world.
For the first time, I watched a Jack Ryan film that lacked any kind of suspense and for a spy film emphasising on trust and secrets, there was very little in terms of deceptions or characters with backstabbing intentions. No cloak and daggers, just a straight up generic, good vs. bad movie with a serious lack of depth.
Please, I beg of you – do not watch this film. It’s utterly forgettable.