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Rated 3.02 stars
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ReelTalk Movie Reviews
Excellent Spy Thriller
by Betty Jo Tucker

Give me a good spy thriller -- whether on page or screen -- and I’m a happy camper. Although Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit is not adapted from a Tom Clancy book as some viewers might think from the title, it boasts all the elements I look for in a film of this genre: covert actions, intriguing locations, mystery, a nefarious plot, a villain you love to hate, and a hero dedicated to safeguarding his country. In this case, fine production values and highly watchable performances also enhanced my viewing pleasure. And what a treat to see Kevin Costner back in a key movie role as a veteran CIA agent who persuades the young Jack Ryan to become a covert CIA analyst.    

Author Tom Clancy created the heroic Jack Ryan character, who’s been  played on screen by Alec Baldwin, Harrison Ford and Ben Affleck. This time, it’s Chris Pine (Star Trek), and he manages to bring a younger Ryan to life in this origin story, which was probably designed to start a new franchise. Not a bad idea! Pine projects a sense of purpose needed for this role. He’s not as intense as Harrison Ford in Clear and Present Danger or Patriot Games, but he might develop more of that quality in future installments, if given the opportunity.

In Shadow Recruit, young Ryan feels devastated by the 9/11 tragedy and joins the Marines. While recuperating from an injury during service in Afghanistan, he meets the lovely Cathy Muller (Keira Knightley), who motivates him to walk again. He also comes in contact with mysterious CIA agent Thomas Harper (Costner). Because of Ryan’s knowledge about economics, Harper recruits him for covert work inside Wall Street. Both Pine and Costner shine in their interaction scenes as mentor and mentee. The initial meeting of their characters is especially well done. I became invested in that relationship within the first few seconds of their conversation. Costner always makes everything look easy (“don’t let the wheels show”), so this is no surprise -- and Pine seems to be learning from Costner in a way similar to Ryan learning from Harper.    

When Ryan discovers a Russian plot to crash the U.S. economy, Harper sends him to Moscow to find out more about what’s going on. Unfortunately, Ryan gets involved with Viktor Cherenin (Kenneth Branagh), a nasty piece of work with one of the coolest offices I’ve seen on film since Citizen Kane. Branagh (also director of the movie) can play just about any part, but he’s truly in the zone here, accent and all. “A man can smile and smile and be a villain,” wrote Shakespeare. How true! Viktor smiles and puts on the charm while setting up all the pieces for his economic Armageddon, including a U.S. terrorist attack. And so, Ryan must become a field agent instead of an analyst in order to save the day.

Filmmaker Branagh (Thor) moves the rest of the movie into high gear with lots of action involving such spy thriller staples as car chases, a ticking bomb, and a kidnapped girlfriend. Predictable? Yes, but highly suspenseful to watch. The action appears a bit sliced-and-diced, but not as annoyingly so as in some of the Bourne films. Haris Zambarloukos’ (Thor) cinematography captures intriguing views of Moscow and New York City; Patrick Doyle’s (Rise of the Planet of the Apes) music sets the right tone for each sequence; and the clever screenplay by Adam Cozad and David Koepp (Spider-Man) offers a welcome new treatment of a popular movie hero.

No wonder the AARP has awarded Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit its first MOVIE FOR GROWNUPS SEAL, which recognizes films that have special appeal to 50+ audience members.                       

(Released by Paramount Pictures and rated “PG-13” for sequences of violence and intense action, and brief strong language.)

For more information about this film, go to the Rotten Tomatoes or Internet Movie Data Base web site. 

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