Matt Adcock’s film review: Jack Ryan’s latest incarnation is a formula feature with a starry cast but little in the way of real thrills

All American super spy Jack Ryan is back for the benefit of cinema-goers who find Bond a bit too British, Bourne a bit too violent and Mission Impossible’s Ethan Hunt a bit too unpredictable.

By The Newsroom
Monday, 27th January 2014, 4:08 am
Chris Pine is the latest actor to play super spy Jack Ryan
Chris Pine is the latest actor to play super spy Jack Ryan

Ryan has been portrayed by Harrison Ford, Ben Affleck and Alec Baldwin with various degrees of success and now we have a younger ‘prequel’ Ryan played by Chris ‘Kirk from Star Trek’ Pine, all fresh-faced and eager to save the world.

Shadow Recruit is the first Ryan adventure not based on an established Tom Clancy novel and it shows. The plot sees young Jack signing up to the CIA and falling in love with a gorgeous doctor (Keira Knightley) who helps him recover from injuries suffered serving in Afghanistan before being dispatched into the field by veteran spy Harper (Kevin Costner).

After the initial set up has been ticked off, the action can begin – the threat being a dastardly evil Russian plan to destroy the American economy by Viktor Cherevin (Kenneth Branagh, who also directs).

Chris Pine is the latest actor to play super spy Jack Ryan

Cue plenty of sneaking about, the occasional fight, a spot of breaking into highly guarded offices and of course a ‘thrilling’ against the clock climax to try and avert catastrophe.

It’s decent enough entertainment, slickly put together and it looks good – Pine and Knightley make a gorgeous couple but there is nothing overly compelling and certainly nothing very memorable.

If anyone puts Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit on their ‘films of 2014’ list I’ll want to have words with them – this is Hollywood by-the-numbers action film creation which, as a prequel, doesn’t even hold the threat that our hero might not survive.

I took my son and his girlfriend, both 16, to see this and they – having never seen a Jack Ryan movie before – were kinder than me.

So if you’re new the world of action thrillers, this is probably an ok place to start, breaking you in gently without disturbing you too much or troubling your grey matter.

In fact, in order to enjoy Shadow Recruit it is highly recommended that you put your brain into neutral and let the moments of highly improbable coincidence that are essential to the plot wash over you.

I don’t envy the marketing team behind this film, as it must be tough to sell such an ordinary flick. Jack Ryan: The Slightly Dull Early Years could well have been an early rejected working title?