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JACK RYAN: SHADOW RECRUIT (review)

Review by Clay N Ferno
Produced by Lorenzo di Bonaventura, Mace Neufeld
Screenplay by Adam Cozad, David Koepp
Based on Jack Ryan by Tom Clancy
Directed by Kenneth Branagh
Starring Chris Pine, Kevin Costner, Kenneth Branagh, 
Keira Knightley, Nonso Anozie, Colm Feore, 
Gemma Chan, David Paymer, Karen David

Chris Pine (Star Trek’s Captain Kirk) stars as Tom Clancy character Jack Ryan alongside Kevin Costner, Keira Knightley and director Kenneth Branagh in a wholly satisfying reimagining of the Jack Ryan movie universe.

Pine is the fourth actor to play Ryan on the big screen, following Alec Baldwin, Harrison Ford and most recently by Ben Affleck in 2002’s The Sum of All Fears.

Already a hero to geeks everywhere, Pine’s action-packed performance as somewhat reluctant CIA agent in Shadow Recruit begs for more movies right out of the gate.

Can Jack Ryan out-Bond James Bond?  Will Ryan replace Mission: Impossible’s Ethan Hunt as your must-see American action hero?   Sir Kenneth Branagh directs a post-9/11 action hero flick with an accessible storyline based on the evils of terrorism, economic fear and residual Cold War rivalries. As scary and stoic villain Viktor Cherevin, Branagh strikes fear with a stare. Costner and Knightley are of course amazing as second leads to our hero.

The movie opens on a familiar scene; on a college campus everyone gathering around a public television set, September 11, 2001.

Jack sees the terrorist attack on U.S. soil, and we flash forward to the fateful helicopter crash over Afghanistan that leaves him injured in 2003.

In physical rehabilitation, Jack meets his future fiancé Dr. Cathy Muller (Knightley) and is noticed by top secret agent William Harper (Costner). Harper assigns Ryan to Wall Street on a top secret long tail mission to analyze international financial data from the inside.

Working as the financial analyst, he notices an anomaly with his company’s Russian accounts and reports this back to Harper. Here is where the fun begins. Jack Ryan transforms from being the numbers guy in a suit, eating expensive lunches and passing off hard copy files to informants in dark movie theaters into a to a card access stealing, gun toting ex-Marine in hot pursuit of the truth working out of a 5-star Moscow hotel room.

His fiancé Cathy is suspicious of his actions so she follows him to Russia by way of Paris, putting her in harm’s way after our big bad Viktor Cherevin uses her as ransom. Harper and Ryan first use her as a distraction in one of the most clever dinner scenes we’ve seen in a long time. Pine, Knightley and Branagh slosh over glasses of red, and complaining of his back injury, Pine feigns popping pain killers and needing to take a walk. What follows is a carefully timed infiltration into Branagh’s company books inside of a fortress of Russian military grade security.

This awesome race against time M:I scene bleeds right into quick flash drive hand-offs, a car chase and eventually the bread crumbs take us back to U.S. soil where Wall Street may be the next target.

It is both surprising and welcome that the plotline for Shadow Recruit has enough going on without being convoluted, bogged down in jargon or too incredibly complicated. That is not to say the movie is dumbed down, it is a rare case of being drawn into the movie and drawing your own conclusions about what might happen next, guessing and then congratulating yourself that you are as smart as the heroes in the film.

More car chases and combat, and even a Ducati motorcycle gets thrown into the mix in the third act as—we can hardly believe in 2014 we’d say such a thing—the Russian plan to cripple America is nearly fulfilled!

While not a sci-fi CGI laserfest, this movie plays well in The IMAX Experience, drawing you in to the action, style and pacing of the movie.

I think we may have a new favorite action franchise with Chris Pine as Jack Ryan, trumping The Bourne Legacy by a long shot and on par with the intrigue of Daniel Craig as James Bond.

We’d be happy to see Branagh return as director for the sequel if this turns into a thing.

Or more of a thing.

Or a more modern version of a thing.

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