Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit (2014) Director: Kenneth Branagh
Directed by Shakespearean Actor and theatrical virtuoso Kenneth Branagh (who also plays the lead villain of Viktor Cherevin, a shadowy Russian businessman), Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit is a fun reboot of the Jack Ryan series, though this story was not based on any of Tom Clancy’s books. It is about a Russian plot to dump U.S. Treasuries coupled with a terrorist attack on Wall Street in order to cause a second global great depression. It is a tale of Russian revenge in a post 9/11 world.
The movie gives an interesting little backstory of Jack Ryan (Chris Pine) in which he injures his spine while on a Marine Corps mission in Afghanistan. During recuperation he meets his paramour Cathy Muller (Keira Knightley) and he is recruited to the CIA by Thomas Harper (Kevin Costner). His job is to covertly work on Wall Street where he learns of the Russian plot, so he is sent to Moscow for a farcical audit. The film leads us through a variety of nail-biting scenarios between Jack Ryan and Viktor Cherevin –Jack kills his escort, Viktor sells his assets in question to prevent an audit, Jack invites him out to dinner, Cathy spontaneously arrives so Jack reveals to her he is a CIA agent, at dinner she distracts Viktor while Jack infiltrates Viktor’s company, Cathy is kidnapped in a hectic car chase, and in the end Jack races back to the United States to prevent Viktor’s son from blowing up Wall Street in a camouflaged police van. When he does so, Viktor is assassinated alone in the woods by the Russian government for his failure.
The speed of Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit is breakneck, nothing like the slow-burn psychological thriller of The Hunt For Red October, nevertheless I like a fun espionage thriller. It’s far from the best in the Jack Ryan series, and there is nothing particularly deep or nuanced in the movie, but it is an enjoyable ride nonetheless. In an age of anti-heroes and moral ambivalence, it’s nice to see the spy genre can still remain intact. One piece of criticism against the film is this version of Jack Ryan is hardly connected to the original character in the Tom Clancy novels. Jack Ryan is a not necessarily meant to be a raw action hero, he is more of a clumsy analyst with a desk job. Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit is simply an engaging adventure, and it doesn’t try to be another moralistic subversion of the audience’s expectations.
This film was followed with yet another reboot of the Jack Ryan series, this time an Amazon sponsored series starring John Krasinski as a new buff, skilled, action hero version of Jack Ryan. Season One dropped in 2018 and it concerns a Middle Eastern terror plot that takes Jack all over the world including Yemen, France, and Turkey while the villainous Islamic extremist named Suleiman as his family begins falling apart and his wife flees in the night. It is a terrific short series but it was followed up with a sub-par second season about a gang plot in Venezuela. As of the time I am writing this review a third and fourth season is also in the works.