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Jack Ryan, Shadow Recruit (2014)

Attaching a best-selling authors name to a big budget box office adaptation doesn’t promise a smash hit. On the New York Times bestseller list, these stories about Tom Clancy’s popular character were well received. At the box office, this film reboot, not so much. Fortunately, the latter nearly always guarantees, it will be a hit at my house.  

Jack Ryan (Chris Pine) is being hailed as a hero. His post 9/11 enlistment in the Marines ends when he pulled two fellow Marines out of a downed, burning helicopter and suffered burns and serious injuries as a result. Worry over him ever being able to properly walk again is called into question during his therapy and recovery at Walter Reed but despite a lingering back injury, he does recover… and is approached by Thomas Harper (Kevin Costner), a Navy man whose career is about secrets kept for the CIA. There solely for the purpose of recruiting Jack, ten years later, Jack has finished his education, is engaged to the woman he loves – his former doctor, Cathy Muller (Keira Knightley) – and is working as an analyst for the CIA where he monitors the possibility of terrorist attacks by following the money.

When he notices account irregularities in a Russian entity, he is sent to Moscow to uncover the truth behind the anomalies, only to realize that the enemy (Kenneth Branagh) they’re up against an enemy who has anticipated the United States’ opening move.
I’m not entirely sure why this film was considered a snooze fest. But it was. (By most reviews I pursued anyway.) Sure, it takes some of the typical twists and turns, and has an often-cast-in-this-role Chris Pine, however, I really liked all of that… normalness. For starters, the cast is a great mix of talent and I enjoyed being introduced to a new kick butt kind of hero, only instead of being a Jason Bourne type of operator, this guy is more “human” in that he does have limitations – and he isn’t “operational.” There was a kind of quality to this character (something I cannot put my finger on) that was relatable, plus I found the interactions (even when they were fighting) between Jack and Cathy darling. There was a good sense of patriotism involved also, which is a surefire way to pull me into the script and keep me entwined in its excitement and the push-and-pull of its good vs. bad plotline. 

Combining with that are some fabulous action sequences, which keeps the latter half of the film hopping. What’s nice is the lead-in to the climax is more mental suspense than action-packed, this allows for less confusion or distracting explosions, plus the lack of an overlong freeway chase makes for a tense, but still not an overly drawn-out conclusion that has one too many times felt as if it needed to be cut by 5-10 minutes. But, of course, following protocol, the writer's do pull one last trick out of their hat and it works well enough to wrap up the story. If you like films like The Bourne series or any of the blockbuster films in this genre, Jack Ryan is worth considering. Origin stories can be tough, however it’s how Jack is introduced and how he reacts to life-and-death situations that set him apart from the norm and if that’s the only reason, it’s a (more) unique way to justify the changes in an oft-retold script.

(Content: there is some violence [a body is seen badly burned, other characters are shot and there are three crashes, one involves a bomb in the back of the vehicle]. An unmarried couple lives together [there’s one scene of them talking lying in bed together], profanity consists of sh*t, misuse of God’s name and an f-word. The film is rated PG13.)
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  1. My parents and I watched this last night and I really enjoyed it. Chris P. and Keira K. had great on-screen chemistry! Their banter was so cute. Now, I can't even begin to compare this to the Harrison Ford Jack Ryan movies because the older movies are so much better BUT I felt they did a decent job with this reboot. :-) Great review.

    1. I've not seen any of the other films with Jack Ryan though I have the one with Ben A. in it (perhaps I'll have to give it a try). And I think my dad has seen 'Red October.' Either way, I enjoyed this one (maybe, that's why reviewers were so harsh on this reboot because they compared it to the older titles?) and as you said, the banter between Chris and Keria was darling. Loved that aspect. :)

      Thanks for reading, Rosie.

  2. This was a great film - I don't know why it wasn't better received in the box office. I agree, the mental suspense really drove the latter part of the movie. And Chris Pine is in it :) . Loved your review, Rissi!

    1. It was, Courtney! I enjoyed it very much and find it too bad that it didn't do better since that lessens the likelihood of a sequel. Ah, well. I'll just enjoy re-watches of this one. ;)

      Right?? Who doesn't like Chris Pine!? ;)

      Thanks for reading, Courtney. Always glad to have you visit.

  3. Interesting :) I haven't seen this, but ironically I just watched Princess Diaries 2 the other night, and really liked Chris Pine in it this time around (the first time I watched it I didn't like it so much). I have to admit that Kiera Knightley has never been one of my favorite actors, even though she's absolutely beautiful--her acting style comes across to me the same in every. single. movie. I've ever seen her in. But I know that others think differently about her :)

    walking in the air.

    1. Aw, I love Princess Diaries 2 and Chris in that film. Glad the second time went better for you. He's in several cute chick flicks, so I've seen him in different films though nearly all of them are more "adult" than Princess Diaries 2.

      Funny you should mention feeling Keira is the same in every role, I've seen that comment before in others reviews or just in conversation; I cannot say it's been something I've noticed though I understand that mindset because, sometimes, for whatever reason, an actor just bugs the viewer. And I certainly have my own group of actors who would fall into that category.

      Always glad you stopped in, Hannah. :)

  4. Great review! I just watched Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit recently (twice :)) and I loved it! Chris Pine, Kiera Knightly, and Kenneth Branagh are all on my list of favorite actors so that made it really fun. I liked it for a lot of the same reasons you mentioned, including the patriotism and how Jack is human and has limitations, and Cathy. :)


    1. This is definitely one I'll re-watch as well. It's a very enjoyable action flick in comparison to some of its peers because of its hero, who more relatable, and I do admire that in script writing.

      Thanks so much for reading and sharing your thoughts. :)

  5. Whoa, how did I miss this post?! I was so so excited to see this review. I loved Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit and I don't know why it got poor reviews either! I've seen it twice (so far). My sister and I agreed that while the Bourne movies are a little better, we appreciated the differences in this movie like the ones you mentioned (true patriotism, Jack was human, etc.). Great review, Rissi!

    1. It snuck past you, Bekah. :)

      You know, I agree! The more I think about this film (through the great conversations in this post), the more I realize it's going to be a favorite in its genre. I liked so much about it - the fact that Jack wasn't a "ruthless" hero (yet wasn't a wimp or "loser" either)and the sense of American pride made me feel very patriotic (much like Captain America does), and also the fact that it was "smarter" than some of its competition.

      Maybe this was trashed because of the "oldie" movies with the Jack Ryan character? I'm not sure, though all I do know is this movie was really good, plus I prefer newer films vs. the 90's era. You make me want to see it again. :)

  6. So this is on my to watch list! Got reminded of it the other day!!! But I do love action flicks (Chris Pine doesn't hurt ;) ) there is that.

    1. Yay! Hope you enjoy it, Ella! If you have the time once you see it, drop back by to let me know what you think. And I agree, Chris Pine starring doesn't hurt a THING. ;)


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