Movie Review: Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit - Hope 103.2

Movie Review: Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit

Tom Clancy fans rejoice!

By Mark HadleyFriday 24 Jan 2014MoviesReading Time: 3 minutes

Tom Clancy fans rejoice! The author of so many best-selling airport fictions might have died last year but his most famous character lives on!

Tom Clancy fans rejoice! The author of so many best-selling airport fictions might have died last year but his most famous character lives on!

Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit
is the fifth film to star Clancy’s iconic hero, a bookish CIA analyst turned operative who finds himself wrapped up in the most inventive, life threatening cases of espionage imaginable. Taking over from Alec Baldwin, Harrison Ford, and Ben Affleck is Chris Pine, best recognized as the new Captain Kirk in the reboot of Star Trek. Shadow Recruit introduces Pine as a young and idealistic Ryan years before any of the previous films have taken place. He has suffered spinal injuries in a military helicopter crash but is recruited by the CIA for his brilliant observational skills. Ryan comes across hints the Russian government is going to attempt to cripple the American economy by crashing the US dollar. However only he can understand the financial intelligence so his handler sends him to Moscow to gain hard evidence. While there, he discovers the plot is far deadlier than anyone expected. 

Clancy was a security aficionado and so his books were not only peppered with the latest technology but extrapolations of real world political tensions. Consequently even though the plots are often more than a little fantastical – Israel cedes sovereignty over Jerusalem to the Vatican and Saudi Arabia – the conflict is driven by forces we’re sadly familiar with – rampant capitalism, religious fundamentalism, international terrorism. Clancy was equally careful with Jack Ryan, never expecting him to do more than he was trained to do. Previous films like The Hunt for Red October and Clear and Present Danger understood this well, including action scenes but playing to Ryan’s analytical strengths. Shadow Recruit isn’t so thorough.

The decision to cast Pine as a young Ryan fresh out of the marines was always going to argue for a more hands-on role in the action. But it’s hard to reconcile his protestations that “I’m just an analyst!” with his deft hand-to-hand fighting, high speed driving and daredevil motorcycle stunts. Even harder is believing his girlfriend Cathy (Keira Knightly) could slip into the role of agent-provocateur with no training at all. But for all of those missteps the plot still races along at a rocket’s pace, driven by one accurate emotion: regret.

The villain of the piece, Viktor Cherevin, is played by the film’s director Kenneth Branagh. Cherevin is a Russian nationalist who clearly holds America responsible for the ruination of the Soviet empire. He regrets the weakness his country has shown, regrets the American made grenade that injured him in Afghanistan and, in particular, regrets the sacrifice that has led to the loss of his son. Likewise Ryan regrets that he wasn’t truthful with Cathy, regrets that he wasn’t able to take better care of her, and regrets he didn’t marry her when he had the chance. The difference is what their regret drives them to do.

Viktor’s rearward gaze makes him feel as though he has nothing to lose, and so he pursues his revenge with reckless abandon. Ryan, however, sees his regret as an opportunity to change. Rather than give up, he struggles to place himself in a situation where he can take a more positive direction. Ultimately Shadow Recruit is not much more than an exciting excuse to eat popcorn but it does manage to stumble on to a reality of the human condition. We can look back and regret, but feel there is no chance of change and so continue on our way hoping for something better. Or we can use regret as a motivation for renewal – turning around and going in the opposite direction – what the Bible calls repentance. Of course, in this fiction Ryan manages the change without anything more than determination. But in reality we’ll need God if we’re going to make such a dramatic journey.

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Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit

Release Date:January 16