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JACK RYAN: SHADOW RECRUIT

SYNOPSIS:
In his pre-CIA days, Jack Ryan (Chris Pine) is working on Wall Street as a financial analyst until recruited by the CIA's William Harper (Kevin Costner) to investigate global financial terrorism. When a plot that could sink the US economy is uncovered, Jack is pushed into the field, to travel to Moscow and confront the Russian businessman Viktor Cherevin (Kenneth Branagh) behind it.

Review by Louise Keller:
A terrorist attack and the collapse of the US economy is the plot trigger for this fast-paced, action thriller in which Chris Pine assumes the latest screen incarnation of Tom Clancy's heroic analyst, Jack Ryan. A lean 105 minutes is the result of an economical script and tight direction from Kenneth Branagh, who crams a satisfying mix of top action and good character development, ensuring that the dynamics of a meaningful romantic relationship plus that of a cold, calculating villain sit at interesting angles. As for Pine, he ticks all the boxes in his portrayal of the decent, heroic covert CIA desk analyst turned operative, with the added bonus of dashing good looks and piercing blue eyes as he follows Alec Baldwin, Harrison Ford and Ben Affleck in the role. It's good escapist action with a likeable hero to whom we can relate and enough points of difference to give it an edge.

With efficient brush strokes, two short prologues set the scene, allowing us to understand the profound impact that the devastating events of 911 have on Ryan, as a 2001 economics student in London followed by 2003 active duty in Afghanistan. Badly injured and struggling with his rehabilitation, there are two key people who help him find 'something to run for': his doctor Cathy (Keira Knightley) and US Navy Commander William Harper (Kevin Costner). The main action begins 10 years later, when Harper recruits Ryan as a covert CIA agent based in the heart of Wall Street.

The development of the relationship between Ryan and Cathy is one of the film's strengths - there is a tantalising push-pull quality about it, resulting from the fact that she is unaware of the CIA connection. Cathy's interpretation of Ryan's secretive nature arms her with cause for concern over his fidelity; the scene in a plush Moscow hotel when she surprises him is most endearing. The Moscow sequences are impressively shot, the plush, minimalist interior settings a stark contrast to the wintry exteriors and iconic backdrops. Look out for a surprise when Ryan is escorted to his luxurious hotel suite - this is one of the film's most tense sequences.

Our first glimpse of Branagh as Viktor Cherevin is unforgettable: we see the back of his head as he extends an arm to an aide who attempts to inject him with a hypodermic needle. In a few seconds we learn he does not suffer fools gladly. We later learn his weaknesses are vodka, vanity and women. I love the dinner scene in which Branagh, Pine and Knightley each play an integral part: Ryan causes an unexpected distraction, Cathy is aghast and Cherevin plays the flirt. Branagh is terrific as is Knightley, who is as effective as she is decorative.

As the action escalates, so too does the frenetic nature of the music and the editing - at times to the film's detriment. There is a smoke and mirrors element about the technological aspects of the plot - if only technology worked so easily for me - but no matter and I maintain that anyone who has a desk as tidy as Viktor Cherevin should be regarded with great suspicion. But this is a Tom Clancy character and there is much to enjoy in this easy-to-like thriller that races to its heart-pounding and spectacular conclusion is fitting style.

Review by Andrew L. Urban:
Jack Ryan Begins should have been the title, taking the Tom Clancy created novel character made famous by Alec Baldwin in The Hunt for Red October (1990), by Harrison Ford in Patriot Games (1992), and Clear and Present Danger (1994), and by Ben Affleck in The Sum of All Fears (2004). This fifth Jack Ryan movie stars Chris Pine, and is not adapted from a Clancy novel, just based on the Ryan character. Sort of. And it's set in a contemporary world, which is hard to retro fit with the earlier movies. But the target audience probably won't care.

The longevity of fictional heroes like James Bond, and even Sherlock Holmes, is their unique qualities as characters. Exploiting the character without retaining those unique qualities is just that: exploitation. Clancy also wrote better plots.

Not to diminish Pine's performance, or indeed any of the cast, there is a lack of depth and texture, often underlined by a similar weakness in the screenplay. If they want medical records of an individual from Moscow hospital while glued to terminals in an intelligence van parked in New York, not only can they get them, they get them in nano seconds. And so on many times, until there's nothing that is impossible for this tech savvy team.

The presence of Kenneth Branagh as the evil Russian Cherevin is welcome, though, his control of what is written as a hammy baddie gives it tension and edge. Veteran Kevin Costner also impresses with his low key characterisation, and Keira Knightley does what she always does so well, show a range of emotions that give her character credibility and warmth.

Competently directed by Branagh, the film's stunts, action scenes and thriller elements are executed with flourish and the Moscow sequences are terrific.

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CRITICAL COUNT
Favourable: 1
Unfavourable: 0
Mixed: 1

JACK RYAN: SHADOW RECRUIT (M)
(US/Russia, 2014)

CAST: Chris Pine, Keira Knightley, Kevin Costner, Gemma Chan, Kenneth Branagh, Nonso Anozie, Colm Feore, Karen David

PRODUCER: Lorenzo di Bonaventura, David Barron, Mace Neufeld, Mark Vahradian

DIRECTOR: Kenneth Branagh

SCRIPT: Adam Cozad, David Koepp (characters by Tom Clancy)

CINEMATOGRAPHER: Haris Zambarloukos

EDITOR: Martin Walsh

MUSIC: Patrick Doyle

PRODUCTION DESIGN: Andrew Laws

RUNNING TIME: 105 minutes

AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Paramount

AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: January 16, 2014







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