Following on from the likes of Alec Baldwin, Harrison Ford and Ben Affleck, Chris Pine is the latest Hollywood star to take on the role of the eponymous protagonist, as we see him rise from being a student in London, to being head-hunted by Thomas Harper (Kevin Costner) to join him as a covert analyst for the CIA. However Jack is prohibited from telling anybody of his secretive vocation, causing his girlfriend Cathy (Kiera Knightley) to grow increasingly suspicious – particularly when he jets off to Moscow, Russia, to investigate Viktor Cherevin (Branagh), who be believes to be behind a terrorist attack designed to take down the US economy.
Shadow Recruit marks the first time Jack Ryan has appeared in a film that isn’t based on any specific novel from the series, and screenwriters Adam Cozad and David Koepp have used such artistic licence and freedom to create a world that’s easy to relate to, referencing real life incidents such as 9/11 and using them as a springboard to set this tale. The premise focuses on a hypothetical collapse of the economy, insinuating these life-threatening incidents are going on behind our backs, while we’re left blissfully unaware. Talking of relatable, Pine has an everyday quality about his demeanour, while he earns the faith of the viewer as being a remarkable CIA operative. Saving the world (and traditionally, the poor citizens of Manhattan) – from the bad guys, Pine is effectively playing a superhero, except without the supernatural powers.
Initially, there were certainly apprehensions as to whether Pine and Knightley would work as a romantic pairing, but a natural, believable chemistry is formed between the pair. In many films of this ilk, the romantic narrative can appear somewhat superfluous, and brings the film down in places – however Jack and Cathy’s relationship has been implemented judiciously, proving to be a pivotal aspect to this story. Their disagreements seem sincere, and are subtle and understated, which is so much more affecting than full blown, vitriolic arguments. Conversely, where this film truly comes into its element – similarly to another recently adapted novel, Jack Reacher – is within the villain, as Branagh stands out as the evil mastermind Cherevin. Not only is his accent flawless, but the role is simply fascinating, because unlike what we are usually treated to, he’s vulnerable, and in no ways infallible. He’s deftly intelligent, but not physically intimidating, while his fragility is explored through his terminal case of cirrhosis.
Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit is inoffensive and easy to indulge in, as a film that maintains your attention throughout – with an unrelenting and compelling final act. However it’s such a shame that Branagh seems so content at settling for such hackneyed, mediocrity. There is always an audience for these prosaic thrillers that guarantee entertainment, albeit unexceptional, but when tens of millions of dollars are involved – and with such ingenious talent behind the scenes, you just hope that more risk is taken, and more intention is shown to try and be innovative and unique in some way. Sometimes harmless fun just isn’t quite enough.