Branagh's Blazing Battleground
Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit brings together old school practitioners (Kevin Costner, Kenneth Branagh) as well as contemporary movie stars (Chris Pine, Keira Knightley) in order to craft a sure-fire blockbuster.
From a directing standpoint, Branagh approaches this story a little differently to John McTiernan’s The Hunt for Red October. The latter pretty much glossed over Ryan’s war injury. Yet, Branagh starts his film with this detail. As played by Chris Pine, Ryan recovers from severe back surgery and attracts the eye of not one but two people. Firstly, there’s the romantic interest - Dr. Cathy Muller (Knightley) and then there’s top intelligence expert Thomas Harper (Costner). In short, working for the CIA nearly drives a wedge between the couple, especially when they are confronted by dangerous businessman Viktor Cherevin (Branagh).
Like his direction of Thor, Branagh discovers the hidden energy behind Ryan’s Wall Street probing. It’s merely the tip of the iceberg in terms of a larger conspiracy. For me, Pine has been relatively hit-and-miss at this early point in his career. Although I enjoyed his performance in Unstoppable, the same cannot be said for Star Trek. Incidentally, Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit offers him the chance to perform stunts like Jason Bourne. For example, one action scene set in a hotel room works like gang-busters.
Very often, Branagh appears to be doing so little he might actually be asleep. However, looking closer reveals a slow, boiling undercurrent ready to explode. He’s a fantastic villain and remains one of my favourite screen actors.
Meanwhile, Costner holds the bat steady, confident in his ability to hit a home run. His interactions with Pine and Knightley are simply gold dust. As for the latter, she pulls off a convincing American accent despite originating from Teddington, London.
Overall, Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit joins Non-Stop as one of the most enjoyable films of 2014 so far.
(Released by Paramount Pictures and rated “PG-13” for sequences of violence and intense action, and brief strong language.)