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Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit (2014)

Paramount Home Entertainment
Blu-ray Disc Released: 6/10/2014

All Ratings out of

Movie:

Video:
1/2
Audio:
1/2
Extras:


Review by Mike Long, Posted on 5/21/2014

In my recent review for Endless Love, I brought up the notion that despite the fact that some films have a familiar title, that title may be misleading. For that film, I put forth the theory that a script which shared some similarities with the original Endless Love was given a new name and released as a remake. That may sound paranoid, but this practice does happen. Case-in-point: The title Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit makes fans think that they are seeing a new chapter in the adventures of the CIA agent created by Tom Clancy. However, the filmmakers took a completely unrelated screenplay called "Dubai", changed the character and the location, and turned it into a "Jack Ryan" movie. OK, so they've already pulled a fast one on us. Is there anything else about this film which should make us cautious?

Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit opens on September 11, 2001, as college student Jack Ryan (Chris Pine) witnesses the attacks which occurred on that day. Two years later, after receiving his doctorate, Jack is serving in Afghanistan, when his helicopter is shot down. As he is recuperating in Washington, DC, with the aid of Dr. Cathy Muller (Keira Knightley), he is approached by Thomas Harper (Kevin Costner), who recruits him for the CIA. The story then leaps ahead another 10 years, where Jack is working on Wall Street, analyzing data in order to spot questionable foreign transactions. He and Cathy are living together, but she has no idea that he's in the CIA. When Jack finds strange numbers from a Russian firm, Harper orders him to visit Moscow. Once there, his life is immediately in danger and this "desk jockey" suddenly becomes an active field agent. This means meeting with Russian businessman Viktor Cherevin (Kenneth Branagh), while also stealing the man's secrets. Will Jack survive his first real mission?

Kenneth Branagh has certainly had an interesting career as both an actor and a director. While he made a name for himself creating cinematic versions of Shakespearean classics, he had touched on nearly every genre. Branagh scored his biggest box-office success with 2011's Thor. And while he may have seemed like an odd choice for that film, half of it was a Shakespeare-like costume drama and Branagh did fine with the comic book elements. This apparently put him on the map as an action director, as he's now taken the reins of Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit. Perhaps the material here wasn't brainy enough for Branagh, as there is definitely something wrong with this film

The problems with Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit start from the outset. We see Jack and Cathy meet in the hospital and then the story jumps ahead ten years, where Cathy says that they've been together for seven years. Did they wait three years to start dating? Were they separated for three years? Unfortunately, faulty math is the least of this movie's worries. Do you know what puts butts in the seats? An economic conspiracy and threat! Yes, when it was revealed that Russia had aims to wreck the U.S. economy, I was on the edge of my seat. Who needs the anxiety of nuclear annihilation when I can watch Jack Ryan stare at computer screens. Intense! Again, when Jack arrives in Russia, he is immediately attacked, but we never get an explanation for this. Did they know that he was with the CIA? This scene is immediately cleaned up, both literally and figuratively and then never spoken of again.

After a fairly lackluster opening half, the action does pick up in the latter part of the movie, but it simply isn't rousing. The car chase in Moscow tries to do something different by having a threat going on inside one of the vehicles, but it's not as intense as it wants to be. The movie offers yet another take on the "were at the wrong house" move from The Silence of the Lambs, which shouldn't surprise anyone. The finale, which occurs in New York City, is pretty dull as well, if for nothing else because we've seen this done much better in other movies. (While watching this, my wife said, "Wasn't this the plot of one of the Die Hard movies?" Well, Live Free or Die Hard was similar in some ways.)

I'll admit that I'm not a Tom Clancy/Jack Ryan devotee -- The Sum of All Fears was the only previous entry which I'd seen in its entirety -- but the late author and his character deserve better than this. In theory, the fact that a pre-existing script was molded into a Jack Ryan movies isn't a bad thing, but they should have chosen a more exciting story. The reality of the story may be ripped from the headlines, but they doesn't make for intense drama. After tackling Captain Kirk, it's surprising that Chris Pine would want to tackle another well-known role. He's fine here, but he doesn't bring anything especially interesting to the role. While it's clear that Costner's character is supposed to be someone who doesn't lose their cool, he plays the character as too laconic, as thus he's as dull as the rest of the film. International spy films will always have appeal, but in this post-The Bourne Identity world, they really must try harder.

Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit makes having a PhD look really exciting on Blu-ray Disc courtesy of Paramount Home Entertainment. The film has been letterboxed at 2.35:1 and the Disc contains an AVC 1080p HD transfer which runs at an average of 31 Mbps. The image is very sharp and clear, showing no overt grain and no defects from the source materials. The colors look good and the image is never overly dark or bright. The depth is notably good here, as the foreground background are clearly separate, and the level of detail is impressive. The Disc carries a DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 track which runs at 48 kHz and an average of 6.0 Mbps. The track provides clear dialogue and sound effects, as well as the highest bitrate that I've ever seen. The surround sound effects are nicely done and they provide distinct sounds from the rear channels. The stereo effects show good separation and highlights sounds coming from off-screen. The subwoofer effects really add presence to the action sequences.

The Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit Blu-ray Disc contains a few extras. We begin with an AUDIO COMMENTARY from Branagh and Producer Lorenzo di Bonaventura. "Jack Ryan: The Smartest Guy in the Room" (13 minutes) gives an overview of the character, including a look at the four earlier films. From there, we hear about how this new film came about through interviews with the creative team. "Sir Kenneth Branagh: The Tsar of Shadow Recruit" (10 minutes) profiles the director and we hear the cast and crew discuss his working style. "Jack Ryan: A Thinking Man of Action" (5 minutes) looks at the stuntwork and the action sequences of the film, giving us a look at specific scenes. "Old Enemies Return" (21 minutes) takes a serious look at real-life spywork and the United States' relationship with Russia. This piece includes comments from political experts and ex-CIA agents. The Disc contains six DELETED & EXTENDED SCENES which run about five minutes and can be viewed with commentary from Branagh and di Bonaventura.

Review Copyright 2014 by Mike Long