Saturday, January 25, 2014

Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit review

The spy genre has been popular for many decades, but in recent years has seen a revitalization. Whether it was Daniel Craig's modern update of James Bond, Matt Damon's gritty Jason Bourne or Tom Cruise's Ethan Hunt, the espionage genre was consistently delivering films that exceeded all expectations. However, there was one action hero that Hollywood just could not rejuvenate. Jack Ryan was given a reboot with 2002's The Sum of All Fears, but it was a critical and box office misfire. The Jack Ryan franchise was pretty much abandoned. But now, Jack Ryan gets another reboot with Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit. This slick spy thriller stars Chris Pine, Kevin Costner and Keira Knightley and is an obvious attempt at starting another Jack Ryan franchise. And while I hope that the franchise can continue, Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit is a slow, boring start. It features some great action scenes and thrilling moments, but in the end, its poor pacing and lackluster dialogue prevents the film from being anything special.

Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit tells the story of the titular CIA agent (Chris Pine). Ryan is a college student when the World Trade Center is destroyed by terrorists on 9/11. Ryan decides to join the military and fight for his country, but is then injured in a helicopter crash. Rehab begins for Ryan and eventually he ends up working for Harper (Kevin Costner), a CIA agent. Ryan works at a Wall Street firm while also working for the CIA. Eventually, Ryan discovers a scheme that will be put into effect by Viktor Cherevin (Kenneth Branagh) to send America into another great depression. Suddenly, Ryan finds himself thrust into action and fighting criminals that he doesn't truly understand.

I was pretty excited for Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit. I actually have not seen any of the other films in the series, but I love the spy genre and figured that director Kenneth Branagh could produce a great reboot of the character. Plus, the cast is pretty spectacular. It's now safe to say that Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit is a major disappointment, a film that has little to offer besides a few exhilarating action scenes. The first half of this movie is awful and while the second half is better, you're never invested enough in the action to care. I see quite a bit of potential in the Jack Ryan franchise, but none of it was on the screen in Shadow Recruit.

Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit has a multitude of problems, but none bigger than the fact that the first half of this film is dreadfully awful. There's just nothing there. It's so dull, lifeless and boring. Nothing of consequence happens and spy cliches are thrown out like crazy. The dialogue is tedious, the plotting is poorly paced and the film has no tension whatsoever. For about fifty minutes, Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit is a shockingly awful film. It was so bad. I absolutely couldn't believe it. I had high expectations for this film and I was so surprised at how bad the film was. Good thing that the second half is packed with great action scenes and thrills. Otherwise, Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit might have been my first ever "F" review.

In addition, I never felt that any of the actors were very good. Chris Pine is great in Star Trek but he's not that good in this film. His Jack Ryan is just incredibly boring. Keira Knightley is not that good either and Kevin Costner is just okay as Harper. Kenneth Branagh probably gives the best performance out of the cast as a whole. He has some bad moments, but at least his character has some personality. The rest of the cast is just mundane.

One of the things that the recent Bond and Mission: Impossible films have done well is humor. Those franchises each have their own respective source of comic relief; whether it's Benji in M:I4 or Q in Skyfall. And that's another thing that Jack Ryan doesn't have. There's no humor in this film at all. I don't think I ever laughed once. Not that you exactly need to laugh in spy movies, but I feel like there needs to be some sort of comic relief. If the Jack Ryan franchise is going to continue, it needs to find some source of comic relief.

Despite all the negative things that I have to say about this film, I will admit that I thoroughly enjoyed the second half of this film and believe that Branagh did a great job directing the action. The second half just flows a lot better. The dialogue has a greater sense of urgency and purpose, the plot is paced well, and the action is more tense. While the action in this film never reaches the spectacle level of Skyfall or Ghost Protocol nor does it achieve the sheer thrill of Paul Greengrass' Bourne film, it still is pretty cool. The final scenes have great tension and some of the scenes in Russia are pretty thrilling as well.

Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit is a film that I received some enjoyment out of at the end, but really never got into. It's merely a mediocre film. It gives you enough that you're entertained, but never enough that you really care what's going on or are truly compelled by the film. There are some good action scenes, but the first half is flat-out awful. They kind of cancel each other out in the end and if your film tastes are anything like mine, you'll leave the theater saying "The action was good, but that first half was awful." And it is. Jack Ryan is really a film of two halves and because of that, I really can't say that I recommend it.

THE FINAL GRADE:  C                                               (5.5/10)

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