There’s nothing new or groundbreaking about the new espionage thriller “Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit” (heck, the villains are Russians), but it’s smart, competently made with decent action and stars a talented cast doing good work.
And that’s really all you need, especially in the cold, dark days of January.
Based on the character created by Tom Clancy, “Shadow Recruit” is the fifth film in the rocky Jack Ryan saga. The series began in 1990 with “The Hunt for Red October” with Alec Baldwin playing the tenacious CIA analyst. It was followed by “Patriot Games” in 1992 with Harrison Ford in the role for two films — “Patriot Games” (1992) and “Clear and Present Danger” (1994). Ben Affleck stepped into the role for its most previous outing, : The Sum of all Fears” (2002).
The story begins on 9/11 with Ryan a student in London. After the World Trade Center attack Ryan returns home, enlists, and is injured when his helicopter is shot down in Afghanistan.
While undergoing rehabilitation Ryan meets his future love interest, Cathy Muller (Keira Knightley), a medical intern. During this time he is approached by William Harper (Kevin Costner) and invited to join the CIA due to his keen analytical abilities.
Ten years later Ryan is working undercover on Wall Street trying to track money being funneled to terrorists. He’s living with Muller, who thinks he’s just another broker.
When Ryan’s firm’s association with Russian businessman Viktor Cherevin (Kenneth Branagh) begins to raise red flags, he is sent to Moscow to personally investigate. Cherevin is hard, clever and has a plan that could bring the American economy to its knees.
“Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit” is a shot in the arm for this tired franchise. It’s not brilliant but it’s very well done. Director Kenneth Branagh knows how to deliver tension and thrills as well as develop compelling characters. There’s plenty of action and plenty of personal moments as well.
The movie does get more and more implausible as it goes along and pushes Ryan’s abilities to near super-human levels, but I’m not sure if that’s a flaw as much as it is business as usual for action movies.