Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit is a completely fresh take on the Jack Ryan franchise that has produced a number of films over the years. Tom Clancy created the character in a series of best-selling novels about the former US Marine who ends up the CIA.
Ryan eventually becomes Deputy Director of the CIA before suddenly going on to become the President of the United States. Quite a character to say the least. Screen adaptations have included The Hunt for Red October, Patriot Games and Clear and Present Danger. But the most notable performance as the character has always been from Harrison Ford.
This is the first Jack Ryan story that is not directly taken from one of Clancy's novels. Instead, it takes a time leap back to the earlier part of Jack Ryan's life. It explores how he found his way into the secret services. Writers Adam Cozad and David Koepp, successfully bring the story into the modern context but in a respectful way to the character. Whilst it feels odd seeing the character in situations like 9/11 or Afghanistan it actually works if you accept it for what it is.
Kenneth Branagh stars and directs the movie. He gives it a clinical restrained approach that provides tension throughout, without going overboard. Generally, Branagh's approach has more of a James Bond feel to it. That includes his role as the Russian narcissistic baddie that he really seems to enjoy playing. He does a fantastic job on both accounts.
Chris Pine plays the young Jack Ryan. It is clear he has taken influence from Harrison Ford's previous performances but he does it well. Pine does a great job of rebooting characters. He did a brilliant Captain Kirk in the Star Trek reboot (review here) and with Jack Ryan he gives a well-restrained performance. One scene, in particular, is a real standout. The audience witnesses the main character kill an enemy for the first time as a secret agent. His reaction and the focus placed on him by director Branagh gives an authentic feel to the character. Kevin Costner is great as Ryan's mentor and Kiera Knightly is a suitable love interest.
Now I am aware that this film is not bringing anything new to the viewer. But at the end of the day it is a spy thriller and to be fair the scriptwriters have done a tremendous job in a difficult situation. To write a completely new Jack Ryan story is an incredibly brave move. This character has a really loyal fan base and these fans know the character in depth after reading the original Clancy novels.
But I have to say if you accept it for what it is, this movie is great. Packed full of modern slants with excellent direction from Branagh and brilliant performances from the leads. I really enjoyed the movie and hope the team comes back together to make more – if you are looking for a no-nonsense spy thriller to watch I would strongly recommend this movie.