Film Review: The spy that leaves you cold

Film Review: The spy that leaves you cold
Chris Pine starts as Jack Ryan in “Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit,” now playing in theaters. Photo by Anatoliy Vorobev

Tensionless story, uninspiring lead make “Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit” one to skip

“Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit” doesn’t get the job done, which isn’t surprising when you have an uninspiring lead, supporting players let down by the lead, and a tensionless storyline doomed to inadequacy.

A CIA analyst named Jack Ryan (Chris Pine) inadvertently discovers evidence indicating an impending Russian terrorist attack designed to cripple the U.S. economy.

After he is promoted to field agent, Ryan travels to Moscow to confirm his suspicions, where he encounters the grand architect of this nefarious scheme, Viktor Cherevin (Kenneth Branagh).

But if dodging bullets and acquiring intelligence aren’t enough to cause Ryan problems, he has to also contend with the relationship issues he faces with his fiancée, Cathy Muller (Keira Knightley).

No matter how relevant the economy may be in the present day, it makes for a poor cinematic story element, because nobody’s going to have a personal stake in a topic that offers little to no human connectivity.

I certainly didn’t, and due to this unfortunate oversight, the film couldn’t dig itself out of the hole it had dug and fallen into.

Having the titular character investigate a plan for an upcoming terrorist attack involving the economy was a bad idea, one that should’ve been avoided in the first place.

You want to know something funny? Paramount labeled this “Jack Ryan” installment as an action thriller, yet all I got was 105 minutes of tensionless motion and too much exposition.

Not for one second did I experience any sense of impending doom; there was no anxiety, no apprehension, and no fear.

How I am supposed to sit on the edge of my seat and anticipate what will happen next as Ryan and Cherevin face off when the film provides me with nothing to get excited about?

Even as the plot eventually tries to turn things around when Cathy becomes involved in Ryan’s investigation, I still detected no signs of a conflict I could invest in.

The film’s attempts to imbue the proceedings with suspenseful moments fell short of expectations, and the anticlimactic ending left me disappointed.

And no, I don’t think the action sequences are notable enough to mention: the car chases in both Moscow and Manhattan were plagued, once again, by the harsh, erratic movements of shaky camera motion.

It’s a real shame Chris Pine couldn’t carry the film. He had big shoes to fill and the enthusiasm to do so, but just didn’t possess the kind of charisma that made Alec Baldwin’s interpretation of Jack Ryan a memorable presence in “The Hunt for Red October.” Live and learn, Mr. Pine. That’s all I can say at this point.

Keira Knightley, as Cathy Muller, was oftentimes little more than your standard Hollywood eye candy; the fact that her acting caliber was reduced by the leading man did no favors for her.

As a direct result, I never experienced any believable signs of the romance she and Pine shared together onscreen.

Although it was intriguing to see Kevin Costner handle his responsibilities as Ryan’s CIA mentor with a hands-on approach, his overall participation seemed to prevent the film’s ability to redeem itself.

If you ask me, I think having him armed and in the field played a critical factor in lessening that atmospheric conflict a moviegoer must feel in order to enjoy a thriller.

Kenneth Branagh, who also directed the film, is possibly the only cast member worth commending here.

Yes, yes, I know his Viktor Cherevin may seem like, at first, your traditional Russian antagonist who’s got a bone to pick with America, but as the film carries on, you actually identify with his reasons for doing he does at several points.

He may not have succeeded in the director’s chair this time around, but at least his performance was decent.

“Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit” should have returned to the storyboards to undergo the necessary revisions in order to break the curse bestowed upon it from the get-go.

Let’s forget this spy’s mission ever happened and send in someone more reliable to protect America.

MPAA rating: PG-13 for sequences of violence and intense action, and brief strong language.
Run time:  1 hour and 45 minutes
Playing:  In general release

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