Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit (2014)

In case you didn’t know, he’s an analyst.

CIA junior analyst Jack Ryan (Chris Pine) works on Wall Street in hopes that he may spot some dirty trading going on between big-time politicians and terrorist organizations, in hopes that he can stop a possible a terrorist attack if the situation calls for that. However, his latest bout of curiosity gets the best of him this time with one Viktor Cherevin (Kenneth Branagh), a smart, charming and rather sinister Russian who plans on taking down the whole economy for his, as well his own Mother Russia’s self-gain. But the problem isn’t that Ryan can’t stop this, it’s that he’s not too sure about it in the first place to stop it, that’s when his superior (Kevin Costner) decides to promote him to being a field-agent. That means Jack’s going to have to do a lot more than just talking, crunching-numbers and writing some valuable information down – he’s actually going to have to kick some booty! If the situation calls for it, that is. And more than likely, the situation does call for it, however, it gets worse once Ryan’s long-time girlfriend, nurse Cathy Muller (Keira Knightley), gets involved with the mission by pure accident and has to go through the same motions as her boy is going through, in hopes that she not only doesn’t get her or Jack killed, but thousands and thousands of Americans in New York.

"How ya doing, son? And to answer your question: Yes, being 58 does look this good."
“How ya doing, son? And to answer your question: Yes, being 58 does look this good.”

There’s been a lot of chatter going on about this new Jack Ryan movie and even from the very start, I knew that none of it was deserved. See, January movies have the reputation for being terribly shitty, worthless, forgettable and only released so that the major-studios can make a quick buck; and rightfully so, too, because more than often not, that has been the case. But that’s the weird dilemma that Jack Ryan finds itself in: Should it have moved its release-date to being placed in the dreaded month of January, in which everybody is practically playing “Oscar catch-up”? Or, should it have tried to stick it out on Christmas Day like it was originally intended to be?

Well, to be honest, I can’t answer that question because, as we all know, there’s higher-powers out there in Hollywood that manage this type of stuff and no way in hell are any of them going to listen to a 20-year-old blogger, who is currently typing this now as we speak, in a Heisenberg T-shirt and polka-dot boxers. So yeah, obviously I have no say or pull, but it still brings up a big question nonetheless: Do all January movies have to be so shitty?

The answer is a resounding “no”; and I think that Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit is definitely going to turn-over a new leaf in hopes that we at least get a bit better-quality movies in the month in which time pretty much forgets about (especially for movie-goers).

Anyway, all of that business-talk aside, there is a movie to discuss here and like I hinted towards earlier, it’s not as bad as people are making it out to be, based solely on its release-date and rather vague trailers. And to be honest, yes, they weren’t all that promising to begin with but I knew that deep down in my heart, with the talent involved here, that I wasn’t going to be let-down. Because, let’s face it, each and every one of us were surprised by the fact that not only was Thor a pretty good movie, but it was a pretty good action movie. Better yet, make that pretty good action movie, directed by none other than Mr. Kenneth Branagh himself. Seemed very strange at the time, but in hindsight, it surprisingly worked in the way that a superhero movie, let alone a Marvel superhero movie needed to: It was fun, quick, punchy, humorous and had all of the drama only a dignified Shakespeare-thespian could fully understand.

Like we all know though, Branagh didn’t return for the sequel, which meant that he wanted to do this and I’m glad he did because for some reason, it feels a lot more “classier” with him around. It’s not like the movie harkens back to any of those old-school, 70’s/80’s/early-90’s thrillers, but it definitely reminds you of a good, old-fashioned thriller that doesn’t try to re-invent the wheel by any means necessary, but does try to give you enough jumps, thrills, spills, chuckles and fun for the whole time you spend with it. That’s why I think Branagh, despite a few hiccups here and there along the way, gets the job done quite efficiently, without ever focusing too much on the story, or the action. We get a nice-balance between the two and makes this feel like a thriller, with some substance for anybody that may be searching for some.

Also though, it should be noted that the guy knows how to rack-up tension pretty damn well, in certain ways I didn’t even know he had the capability of. For instance, there’s this pretty nifty sequence in which Jack Ryan goes from one building to another and has to hack into a computer-system; but while he is doing this, simultaneously, Chervin is getting worked over by Ryan’s girlfriend, with a clock just tick, tick, ticking away in the background. It’s a sequence in which we know how it’s all going to end, but we don’t know how the pieces are going to fall and align together, and to watch as Branagh keeps us guessing, while on-the-edge of our seats at the same time, truly is something fun to be apart of.

Branagh also does something smart in how he’s able to get a good cast together and make something, out of nothing. Mainly, the character of Jack Ryan, who, as we all know, has never been an easy character to pull-of. For one, he’s incredibly smart and has to make you believe that he can punch, and/or yell-out numbers like it’s what he was born to do, while also assuring you that he can kick some fine booty, if the situation ever calls for it. However, as hard as that balance may be to work with, Chris Pine does a very nice job in giving us both sides to this character, without ever losing the charm that’s made him such a lovable-presence in the first place. There’s some knowing-winks here and there, and you may even get a Captain Kirk-like wisecrack or two, but altogether, Chris Pine is Jack Ryan and if the franchise was to continue on with him in the lead role, I think they’d definitely be in some safe hands.

"Excoose me, meece, but vould you vike to come back to vy humble abode and drvink some VVVVVodka with vme?"
“Excoose me, meece, but vould you vike to come back to vy humble abode and drvink some vodka with vme?”

Everybody else is pretty fun, too, although I have to still give credit to Kenneth Branagh for keeping everything small and sweet for what it was. We only get a few big characters here and there, and the rest are all window-dressing – which is all fine, considering that the heavy-hitting, big characters are played pretty-well by the cast. I’ve never seen a director cast himself as the villain in his own movie, but for what it’s worth, Branagh’s pretty fun, charming and suave, in a “I’ll kill you with a blink of my eye” kind-of-way. He’s certainly hamming it up, but it’s all in good fun, which makes it a lot easier to enjoy. Same goes for Kevin Costner and Keira Knightley, who both play sides on Ryan’s end, while never making you so sure what they’re going to do next. Especially Costner who, by now, has pretty much cemented his role as the steel-faced, dead-pan guy you can call on to deliver what is basically exposition, but deliver it in such a compelling way, you’ll feel like you must need to listen. A lot of credit goes to Knightley, too, who is sadly given the role of the “annoying girlfriend who just wants love and attention from her boyfriend”, but handles it well, and in ways, gets her own chances to shine and show that she can stick-up for herself when the going gets going.

Still though: She’s no Anne Archer. Then again, no woman could ever be.

However, as much as I go on and on about this, I do have to state the fact that this is not a perfect movie by any means: there are a few times where the action gets a bit too indecipherable with all of the shaky-cam going on, and certain plot-points/twists are a bit confusing, especially to the common-ear. But in all, when it comes right down to making this a fun, action-thriller, that just so happens to be trying to catapult a new franchise onto the horizon, I have to say that I feel like we’re stepping with the right foot this time.

Now, granted, this movie could definitely bomb, and bomb BIG TIME at the box-office, almost to never be heard of again, but I for one hope that isn’t the case. If Branagh continues to direct, then I definitely don’t want this franchise to just stand and collapse with the blink of an eye; there is some nice, nifty details here and there that could definitely spin this story into some new foreign territory, in which we continue to see characters develop more, but also the action, along with the budget, get a lot wider and more expansive. Then again though, this could be all me just talking out of my arse by hoping for the best, while expecting the worst, so I guess we’ll just have to wait and see.

Consensus: Not the most memorable action-thriller involving spies you’ll ever see, but still fun, thrilling and exciting enough to make Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit a good time at the movies, as well as possibly the first of a soon-to-be franchise. Fingers crossed, people.

7.5 / 10 = Rental!!

I guess the Enterprise was in the shop?
I guess the Enterprise was in the shop?

Photo’s Credit to: IMDBColliderJobloComingSoon.net


  1. Of the movies going toe to toe on Christmas, Jack Ryan blinked and it’s hopefully a wise decision. I actually liked the trailer; it’s kind of weird hearing Knightley do an American accent though. Nice review.

    • It is weird, but it’s sustainable. Don’t know why they couldn’t have just made her a British nurse, but I guess that’s why I’m not working in Hollywood.

  2. I’ve never been a big fan of the Jack Ryan movies, to be honest Dan. I always found them to be quite dull. Not sure yet, if I’ll give this a try but it looks unlikely for the time being. Great review nonetheless.

    • I’ve checked out all of the other movies and while I wouldn’t say I loved them, they weren’t so bad. This is just somewhere in the middle and a nice addition.

  3. Good review! Probably will miss this though doesn’t look like my type, for me it looks too much like Jack Reacher even has the same name 🙂 aha glad you enjoyed it!

    • They do come very close in the title department. I even got confused a bit too many times myself, but surprisingly, they’re two different kinds of thrillers. But both effective in their own, respective ways.

  4. Looked like quite the generic romp, and the trailer bored me to death, but really cool that it did not turn out that bad. Rotten Tomatoes seems to agree with you that it is the best theater release of January. Looks like I will give it a chance at some point, and stop judging a film by its trailer.

  5. I get the impression from the trailer that this is going to be a ‘does what it says on the tin’ movie. It will be a decent action thriller, but not much else. However, because it is been shown in January rather than thrown in with the likes of Cap America and Godzilla, it might seem more memorable in the… POLKA DOT SHORTS?! Really?!!!!

  6. If you’re not a historic, hard-hitting drama or a hysterical, debauchery-driven dram-com, then January is a tough month.

    I’m a fan of Chris Pine and thoroughly enjoyed Thor (although not as much as i did Thor 2) so i’m actually quite interested in seeing this.

    Sounds a lot like 2014’s Jack Reacher to me – a solid, if not intuitive, action-thriller.

    Nice review Dan!

  7. I’ve not seen it yet, but it is on the list – may be as soon discount/all day/Tuesday. I liked the opening of the review as you got the late season/non-Christmas day opening stuff out of the way. I think it was very smart for them to have delayed this one for three weeks or so.

    I was surprised that Costner got such brief mention from you. He has been out of the the ABOVE THE TITLE category for a long time – but he has this one, and Draft Day opening in April, and two more currently in post production – 3 Days to Kill and Black and White. That will mean Costner will have appeared in four films this year. With a fifth filming as I write this – McFarland – Costner plays a track coach in a small California town.

    I’m glad to seem him working steadily again.

    By the way, the 4th Bourne film, with Renner (… there was never just one), wasn’t perfect either, but I’m sure that franchise will return.

    Good work, as usual, Dan.

    • Thanks, Mike! I don’t think I needed to mention Costner as much, because he was great, as usual. But I’m very happy to see him back acting, and doing what he does best, because the guy’s still got it.

  8. Nice review. Branagh’s turn has really surprised me as well. It’s hard to believe the man who extensively worked on Shakespeare adaptations now does action movies.

  9. I was worried about the January release date, if the studio really believed it’s going to be a hit, they would’ve moved it the spring or summer. But after seeing the film, I understand why they didn’t. It won’t be able to compete with the big guns of summer flicks, this film doesn’t have enough spectacle to match the big boys of summer releases.

    With that being said, I enjoyed the heck out of the movie, it might be my second favorite in the Jack Ryan series. It actually reminded me of the 70s thrillers such as Three Days of the Condor The Day of The Jackal and All of the President’s Men, films Branaugh said he watched before making this film. Unfortunately it isn’t doing well at the box office so I don’t think we’ll be seeing any more adventures of Jack Ryan anytime soon.

  10. Great review man 🙂 I had a great time with this movie also and thought that it was a lot better than I ‘d expected! Hopefully it leads into a fully-fledged series like Bourne!

  11. Nice review. I gave it a B- . It’s not up there with Patriot Games and The Hunt for Red October for me. The beginning lacked focus somewhat and the sequence with Jack Ryan breaking into Cherevin’s office was a little bit ridiculous, but I still had fun. Which is lot more than what’s expected out of January.

    Plus, no one can be Anne Archer? Glenn Close might disagree with you.

    “I won’t be ignored, Dan!!!!”

  12. 7.5 is really a high score. I liked Jack Ryan fine, but I wouldn’t go any higher than say a 6. It’s a serviceable thriller, but nothing I’m going to remember a month from now.

  13. Umm, I really liked this movie and thought Kevin was very entertaining in this one, he’s a better older actor than when he was young, and Pine is just awesome!!! But I’m a Pine-nut, so I’m a little biased, lol!!! I love what you said about Ann Archer, I agree, Keira’s American accent was no bueno!!!! Bueno review.

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