Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit (Paramount Pictures, PG-13)

SadowRecruit 75People will go see it, for lack of anything better to do, and they’ll probably like it. But I doubt they will really love it, or even remember it. 

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Can you feel the excitement in the air? That palpable, universal hunger for a new Jack Ryan movie? Me neither. I’m sure there are hardcore Jack Ryan fans out there, I just don’t know any of them. I love The Hunt for Red October, but Jack Ryan almost feels like a supporting character in that film. The rest are all fine, but none of them are particularly great or memorable. According to Wikipedia (which is never wrong), it is the 57th highest grossing film franchise, right under Scary Movie. In other words, no one really seems to give a shit.

Because it’s whatever you call this current decade, Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit is not content with being a “soft reboot” and instead feels the need to be a complete origin story. We begin with Jack Ryan at college in England, watching news footage of the World Trade Center being attacked. Cut to a few years later, and Ryan has joined the military. He’s in a helicopter on the way to do something when the helicopter is shot down. The injured Ryan then spends some time in physical therapy, where he meets two important people. One is his therapist, Cathy Muller (Keira Knightley). She’s vital to his recovery and they eventually strike up a romance. The other person he meets is Thomas Harper (Kevin Costner). Harper is impressed by Ryan, and offers him a job as a CIA analyst. I won’t say that this origin is inherently uninteresting, but the filmmakers clearly aren’t interested in it. They devote almost no time to it. It’s like they felt contractually obligated to tell this part of the story, but they couldn’t wait to get through it and up to what in the old days would have been act one.

Once the story actually starts, the movie gets a bit more interesting. Only a bit, because the villain’s plan involves an act of terrorism while manipulating the stock market. And as Jordan Belfort told us in The Wolf of Wall Street, most people don’t really understand or care about the stock market. It’s the MacGuffin that gets Jack Ryan into this plot, but it’s a pretty weak MacGuffin. Ryan’s Bond-esque meeting with Kenneth Branagh’s evil Viktor Cherevin lacks any joy or excitement, because instead of trading quips over some kind of friendly game, they are staring each other down and humorlessly spouting technobabble that means nothing to the audience. A heist which should be completely riveting is only mildly engaging, because it ultimately boils down to Ryan downloading information off a laptop.

Once we get past the stocks, an hour and a half into the movie, things actually ramp up to a fairly satisfying climax. There’s nothing new from a story perspective, but at least the stakes are clearly defined and we understand the geography of the action. These days, a movie getting good an hour and a half in would mean that, at the very least, we have forty-five minutes to an hour of good stuff, but Shadow Recruit is mercifully short, at an hour forty-five, meaning that once things get going, the movie is pretty much over.

The fact that no one seems excited about this movie doesn’t mean that it won’t be successful. People will go see it, for lack of anything better to do, and they’ll probably like it. But I doubt they will really love it, or even remember it. I had already forgotten about most of it by the time I got home from the theater. It’s not especially bad, but it’s not really good. It’s just another mediocre, forgettable Jack Ryan movie, so I guess it’ll please the fans. But I doubt it will win over any new ones. | Sean Lass

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