I remember the day I saw The Hunt for Red October. I was 12 and watching it with my parents on one of my dad’s days off. It was based on the NOVEL by Tom Clancy, and had an all-star cast, complex character exchanges, snappy dialogue, and a shocker of a twist.
When I was 27, I saw the reboot of Jack Ryan and I realized that it’s another case of Hollywood rebooting a character that was not based off a novel, but just another empty headed filmmaker that forgot that Tom Clancy’s CIA analyst was not an American version of James Bond. Unfortunately, that’s what the film’s intention was.
I respect Kenneth Branagh as an actor/director because he gave us a superior version of one of Marvel’s least known heroes, Thor. Trust me, I saw the sequel and it was missing that human emotion and caring that Branagh brought. Make no mistake, this is a well-made thriller constructed with solid action and well shot locales including Moscow, London, and New York City. He infuses well-choreographed action into that and putting himself in the film was one of the best things about it. He plays Russian billionaire Viktor Cherevin who wants to crash the American economy via Wall Street in more ways than one. He channels a suave persona whose actions speak more than his words. He’s a megalomaniac.
Kevin Costner plays CIA spook William Harper, Ryan’s handler. Back in 1989, he turned down the role that went to Alec Baldwin for The Hunt for Red October, the first film adapted from Clancy’s novels. Costner just shows his unbridled range once again by being the best character, infusing depth into Harper’s one noted character thanks to the screenplay. At first, he’s a mystery and as the film progresses, you see how gradually Harper cares for Ryan.
I can’t see why you turned down this role. Yes, I see your Oscar. Oh.
This is one of the main reasons I can’t stand reboots. Because they are never as good as the original. Never. They turned Jack Ryan from a CIA analyst who works long hours going through tape, pictures, and documents to uncover his findings and file a report. Director Phillip Noyce infused excitement and complexity from Clancy’s words and intelligence into Patriot Games and Clear and Present Danger. In Shadow Recruit, however, Ryan’s turned into James Bond. He’s wearing the suits, he’s got the girl, he battles in scene after scene. In the film, we are never using our thinking caps or seeing any authenticity in any of it. All it delves into is car chase, twist, car chase, twist, finale. Now that would be fun if it was Skyfall.
I’m trading it in for ass kicking and fast cars. You’re going down!
David Koepp and Adam Cozad’s screenplay is meant for a TV action pilot and not one scene felt real; it was manufactured “Only in Hollywood” espionage junk. There is a scene where Ryan tries to play being drunk in front of Cherevin and his girlfriend, Cathy (Keira Knightley), as an excuse to sprint up to his office to download the info off Cherevin’s computer in a limited amount of time while Harper is on the roof watching over him with a sniper rifle ready. Talk about implausible and not believable (except by Branagh). Then it dives deep into the book of spy clichés and comes up with the easiest one, a bomb to take out a major city. Wow, real inventive.
He’s not a SPY!
Chris Pine is one of my favorite up and coming actors. He nails it as Capt. James T Kirk in the Star Trek films and he out-acts 75% of the cast he was saddled up with in the underrated and twist-filled Smokin’ Aces, but I will make this clear, I didn’t buy him for one second as Jack Ryan. At times, he was delivering it and at times he seemed to be out of place and overacting in his scenes. I don’t blame him though with the script he had to deal with.
Keira Knightley, oh please don’t do an American accent ever again. I understand you want to try something new, but your rendition of Cathy Muller (soon to be Ryan) was pouty and at times puts us into soap opera territory in some of the relationship scenes. In Clancy’s novels, Cathy is a strong, independent woman who respects what her husband does. She knows that she keeps the family whole and Ryan on his toes. I saw none of that in this film. She was acting like she was betrayed and then with a choppy edit here and there she now teams up and helps him succeed in his mission.
I’m Cathy Ryan, always.
I’m Anne Archer, damnit. I defeated Glenn Close, you will be no problem.
Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit is a well-made thriller with great locales that is weighed down by the filmmakers misunderstanding of Clancy’s Jack Ryan character throwing out any shrewd of realism or intelligence, a script meant for a TV action pilot, miscasting of Pine and Knightley, and a ho-hum ending that will make you walk and say, “that’s it?” I understand it’s January but at least we have Lone Survivor. Only see this if you pay matinee price and you have cleaned out the Redbox more than once.
Take a Drink: every time you hear Cathy say, “Jack?”
Take a Drink: whenever Ryan turns into James Bond
Shotgun a Beer: when you hear Ryan give an enlisted military oath, even though he’s a lieutenant.
Down a 32 oz Mug: when you see the ending