Harrison Ford, Alec Baldwin and Ben Affleck were all solid choices to play Tom Clancy spy Jack Ryan, but Chris Pine in Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit is more what we imagined reading the legendary author’s books. The previous three actors did amazing jobs (particularly Ford), but there is something about the boy scout feel and boyish good looks of Pine that fits the character perfectly
Now, does Pine have a story that is worthy of his debut as the legendary, thinking man and woman’s spy? The answer is absolutely, yes. Director Kenneth Branagh (who also stars as our villain) and screenwriters Adam Cozad and David Koepp have taken our hero that we all know so well and given him a beginning that fits our time and still firmly maintains his DNA.
Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit begins with Pine in England, studying economics when the unthinkable happens: Two planes take down the Twin Towers. As he sees the horror on TV, he is moved to join the Marines and our story picks up with him in a helicopter over Afghanistan. A missile sends his craft to the ground and he winds up in a military hospital trying to learn to walk again. It is there that Kevin Costner’s Thomas Harper (as seen in the Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit trailer) finds him and recruits him to continue serving his country, albeit for the CIA.
It is also in that hospital that he meets Keira Knightley’s Cathy Muller, who will become his longtime girlfriend.
Ryan takes a job as a Wall Street expert on international markets for a major firm, all while reporting back to Costner in Washington. When red flags go up concerning a Russian company and its moving of massive amounts of money, he alerts his mentor and he’s off to Russia. As seen in that awesome Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit four-minute clip, his visit doesn’t start off so good. It also means Ryan is now an operational member of the CIA.
By having the story deal with the new world order, a Russia trying to get back to its Cold War glory days, and by illustrating how in this new global landscape we are all economically connected, filmmakers have firmly placed Ryan in the modern world -- mirroring how well he fit into the Cold War world of the 1980s.
Ryan must stop a terrorist plot that will send financial markets into turmoil and launch America and the world into a new Great Depression. And Pine is the perfect person for the job, both figuratively through his characterization and literally as the actor behind the role. He is able to turn on the intelligence and the believable action (given his limited background in the Marines) to embody the hero that has charmed audiences for over three decades.
And it’s nice to see Costner returning to action and assuming the role of mentor who is right along with Pine every step of the way. He saw something in the young recruit that as laid out over the film’s two hours, has us believing it too by the closing credits. Our Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit review finds it an utter blast of a film that would have Clancy smiling for sure. And Knightley, she is much more than a wallflower and a joy to witness as Ryan’s better half.
Then there’s Branagh, who scores a double-barreled dose of awesome as the villain and as director. The Shakespearean-trained artist plays his part like a classic bad guy, all while knowing as a filmmaker, how to build a classic yarn of suspense that feels local, with ramifications that could not be more global.