Reviewed By

Christopher Armstead and Lisa Sue
Welcome back Jack Ryan.  We remember you over two decades ago when you were young, but established, and looked like Alec Baldwin,  We remember you a little after that when you were middle-aged and looked like Harrison Ford, and we vaguely remember when you looked like Ben Affleck.  Unfortunately the only thing I can recall about 'The Sum of All Fears' is that Morgan Freeman died in it.  Hope that's not a spoiler.  One thing that has always remained constant about these various Jack Ryan's is that he's always been the smartest guy in the room and he will kick a little ass when pressed.  Jack Ryan has returned, and this time he's just getting started in the spy game and now he looks like Chris Pine.  Jack is still the smartest guy in the room, mainly because everybody else around him seems to be really stupid, and he will kick a little ass when necessary, mainly because almost everybody else around him is useless and is really slow to react to anything.   In this movie 'Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit', thank goodness for Jack Ryan or else we would all be doomed.

September 11th, 2001.  Oxford PhD candidate Jack Ryan observes the horror of that day and swears, as long as he's alive, nothing like that will ever happen again if he has anything to say about it.  Jack subsequently joins the Marines, is pretty darned good at it, and probably would've been great at it were not for the helicopter crash that would change his life.  For the better actually.  In a way.  Except for the people that will be trying to constantly kill him every day for the rest of his life, but that's down the line.

The good thing about Jack's significant injuries is that he will meet the pretty intern Cathy Muller (Kiera Knightly) who will eventually become his lady love, and he will also catch the eye of Admiral William Harper (Kevin Costner) who loves this young man's mind and grit, and will offer him a job within his special club called the C.I.A. where Jack will go undercover as a simple Wall Street Analyst and follow the money which will hopefully uncover possible future terror attacks.  This just crossed my mind, but I wonder does Jack get a paycheck from his Wall Street firm AND the CIA?  That would be sweet if he does.
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Eventually Jack uncovers some financial shenanigans going on in Moscow, spearheaded by super mean Russian magnate Viktor Cherivan (Kenneth Branagh).   Note that he spells Viktor with a 'k' which just screams evil.  Anyway, Jack has to jet to Moscow, as the lowly financial analyst, to sort through this mess, and now his very first spy adventure begins. 

It's typical spy stuff featuring attempted assassinations, misdirection, conspiracies and a grand plan to bring the imperialistic west down to its knees.  Jack kind of had this under some control until his fiancée, who we see has some trust issues about her man, surprises him in Moscow and now things get a little complicated.  Complicated for Jack because nobody else is doing anything except watching Jack.  Save us Jack Ryan… save us.

'Shadow Recruit' was directed by Mr. Branagh, who we sometimes love as a director… 'Dead Again', 'Much Ado About Nothing', 'Thor'… and sometimes we don't love so much... 'Frankenstein', 'Sleuth'.  But in regards to this film, admittedly we didn't love 'Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit', but we did like it. 

As far as spy thrillers go, Branagh hits all the right spy thrill points at all the right spy thrill times, as predictable as they might be.  The snarling, heavily accented villain?  Check.  The damsel who shouldn't be in distress but nonetheless finds herself in distress?  Check.  Car chases, fist fights, people looking at computer screens real serious like, and a countdown to triple zero?  Check on all of those.  But as predictable and as somewhat tired as those plot machinations might be, we will admit that Mr. Branagh does know how to stage a movie and 'Shadow Recruit' has more than enough thrills, action, and fancy spy talk to get us through.

It would be nice, however, if Jack Ryan had a little bit of help.  Remember, Jack is really just a financial analyst.  Yes, Jack is an ex-marine, but he's an ex-marine with a fused spinal cord.  And yes Jack is a CIA agent, but he only stayed at CIA school, I guess that's what they call it, a couple of weeks.  Still, poor Jack has to defend himself against assassins, assassins that one would think intel would tell him are gunning for him, but if Jack doesn't know, then nobody knows.  Jack has to break into establishments and download critical info Mission Impossible style because nobody else in the intelligence community knows how.  Jack has to figure out, all by himself, what the evil dudes plan is because everybody else in the intelligence community is unable to process thoughts.  Once Jack has it all figured out, I was sure that all we had to do dispatch our superior FBI / CIA / SWAT / Secret Service / Treasury Agent defense squads to stop this madness, but no… Jack has to fly from Moscow to New York, with the clock ticking, to stop this nonsense… all by himself.   I'm surprised they didn't make him fly the plane. 

But his name is in the title so I guess it's required that Jack handle most of this nasty business needed to keep us safe.  Thanks Jack Ryan!  Good movie this 'Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit'.  Not great, but solid entertainment.

Lisa's Take:

Jack is back- and terrorists beware. It has been almost 12 years since a Jack Ryan movie was made, and longer since I've watched one. Shadow Recruit wasn't based on one particular Clancy novel, but after all this time does it matter? It seems a reboot was inevitable and time to bring Jack back.  Question is, where does Ryan fit in? In a world filled with spies like James Bond, Jason Bourne, and Ethan Hunt how does analyst Ryan stack up? 'The Hunt For Red October' introduced Ryan almost 24 years ago, the world has changed a lot since then. So has the spy game, is Ryan still up for the challenge?

It wasn't lost on me that in this particular version, Ryan is a financial analyst. A dig at banker/spy Bond perhaps?  Bond, who wouldn't know exchange rate risks from margins if they were served up to him in his martini? Ryan is a book smart spy, who writes memos and is simply looking for the right person to listen to his threat assessments. Unlike other spies, he seems ok (if not downright comfortable) with bureaucracy, and you feel like he would rather write memos than be out in the field. He does what any one of us non heroic humans would do when presented with field work, look around and assume there is someone else going to eliminate the threat.  Very unlike Bond, the loner out to save the world who shoots first and asks questions later. Let's be clear though, out of sense of duty and self-preservation, Ryan will hit when attacked.

What further sets Ryan apart from Bond is his sense of family obligation. It stood out to me in 'Hunt for Red October', the scene at the end with the teddy bear, that this is a family man. This movie continues that theme. Ryan doesn't want to be alone, unlike the rest of his spy compadres. He just wants to come home from work and have dinner with his girlfriend, whom he hates lying to. Spoiler alert, it is revealed in the movie it isn't Ryan with the commitment issues.  Very unlike Bond, a spy who is never home and must be content living in swanky 5 star hotels and eating room service around the world, mostly in tropical locations (the horror that must be).

Ryan's smarts in forensics accounting is also a sign of the times. Can you imagine a movie in the 90's where the bad guy is taken down because his money well dried up? Of course not. We the audience want movies where the bad guy is taken out in a blaze of glory, it helps if the hero spy has some kamikaze style death wish and goes in outgunned and outmanned. Today we wage war on terror, and no matter what your political leaning, it is universally accepted that the actual war part is a catch 22. Win on one front, another front opens up. The war seems on going, without end. Yet the part the US is actually doing well at is stopping the money to terrorists.  Hitting terrorists where it really hurts, their wallet. Accountants of the world must be rejoicing now, and poor Al Capone was just a victim ahead of the times. This kind of thinking wasn't revolutionary during the cold war, it just wasn't as successful. Today though, a few clicks on a keyboard into the wrong account and more damage can be done than with tanks, missiles, and guns. Who knew the world finally caught up to Jack Ryan? That isn't to say there isn't plenty of action in this movie. Lots of shaky camera work, to make the Bourne enthusiasts happy. And plenty of gun fire and car chasing to make this a bonafide spy movie. It wasn't a spectacular movie, but entertaining enough to make me feel there is room in the world for Jack Ryan.  Welcome to the 21st century Jack Ryan.
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