Paramount // 2014 // 105 Minutes // Rated PG-13
Reviewed by Judge David Johnson // June 3rd, 2014
Trust no one.
Jack Ryan, the Tom Clancy alpha dog played by three actors over twenty years, and now a fourth one takes a swing at a character reboot.
A young Jack Ryan (Chris Pine, Star Trek) sees his world shaken up when he witnesses the 9/11 terror attacks as a college student. He opts to serve his country and earns an important position working as an undercover agent in the financial sector. Jack's work brings him into contact with a potential terrorist attack. A gruff off-the-grid agent (Kevin Costner, Man of Steel) sees promise in the young agent and ropes him into duty as a Shadow Recruit, which essentially means people try to kill him on a daily basis.
When I first caught wind of this movie through trailers and TV spots, my interest meter jumped a bit. I didn't necessarily hold a strong affection for the Jack Ryan character, having watched The Hunt for Red October a million years ago, forgetting about Clear and Present Danger, and passing on Sum of All Fears. Patriot Games was awesome, but that was less about Jack Ryan the character and more about Harrison Ford and Sean Bean punching each other in the jaw on a speedboat.
Before I could muster the willpower to extricate myself from the couch and check out Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit, the film disappeared from theaters, effectively leaving my radar until five weeks later when it showed up on Blu-ray. All that blathering to say this: I should have gone to see it on the big screen.
Shadow Recruit is a tight little spy film, a throwback to simple espionage films that trafficked in plot and grounded action over bloated CGI action sequences. Under the direction of Kenneth Branagh (who also stars as the Big Bad), the movie builds a web of spycraft around Chris Pine and pays it off in a lean mean finale. All in all: we're talking a solid B+.
A few reasons why I think Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit earns it...
* Chris Pine
This is a good fit for Pine. The guy is not short on charisma and as noted in the Star Trek franchise, he can be an action presence. The box office may say he can't carry a film per se, but he's good in this and I'd check in to see more of the series.
* Real geopolitical enemies that you can find on a map
This is a relatively small point, but in light of the infamous villain switcheroo in Sum of All Fears and an endless parade of spy films proves substituting actual countries for euphemisms and places called Kerzbleckistan, it's nice to see a film go after Russia, a legit foe these days.
* Kevin Costner
The guy was born to play a grizzled CIA handler.
* The action
Again, we're not talking about Michael Bay levels of mayhem, but this is refreshing. The action scenes are well-paced and well-placed, steadily building to a rewarding confrontation that has actual stakes and a helter-skelter payoff.
Paramount's Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit (Blu-ray) is loaded: a slick 2.40:1/1080p HD transfer joins a rare DTS-HD 7.1 Master Audio track to generate a high-end technical presentation. Lots of extras, too: director's commentary, deleted and extended scenes (with optional commentary) and four featurettes.
Pleasant surprise. A smart, exciting spy movie that deserves more love.
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Scales of Justice
* 2.40:1 Non-Anamorphic (1080p)
* DTS HD 7.1 Master Audio (English)
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (French)
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (Portuguese)
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (Spanish)
* English (SDH)
Running Time: 105 Minutes
Release Year: 2014
MPAA Rating: Rated PG-13
* Deleted/Extended Scenes
* DVD Copy
* Digital Copy
* UltraViolet Download
* Official Site
* Facebook Page