Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit
DIRECTOR: Kenneth Branagh
CAST: Chris Pine, Keira Knightley, Kevin Costner, Kenneth Branagh,
RUNNING TIME: 105 minutes


INSPIRED more by Tom Clancy’s book character than based on an actual novel, this is Kenneth Branagh’s take on America’s contemporary role in global spycraft.

Having successfully booted up the Thor franchise, Branagh now moves on to an action thriller that borrows as much from TV series Homeland as it does from Clancy.

Branagh also puts himself in front of the camera to provide the bad guy in the form of Soviet baddie Viktor Cherevin.

He hammily sneers his way through the film, looking down on the terribly rude American who comes to check his company books, not batting an eyelid when he realises that the uppity young fellow is a CIA spy, because, of course, all Americans are.

Jack Ryan (Pine) is a CIA spy, but the start of the film tells us he is not totally convinced that this role is his brightest idea.

The opening sequence of the 9/11 bombings gives us the reason for Ryan quitting his studies and becoming a Marine, who then ends up in months of rehab, which is how he meets fiancée Catherine (Knightley).

Working as a compliance officer on Wall Street, Ryan has access to all sorts of information and uses it to predict potential terrorist activity. Sent to Moscow to follow up on a hunch, he has to play the spy for real and not just be the desk jockey.

He is so much more comfortable using his brain rather than brawn, and he doesn’t like the idea of killing someone, so the character seems much more real than if he was some cool under-pressure spy, ready to kill with a quip.

The storyline is very simple as thrillers go – not as twisty as the Bourne films, nor as tongue-in-cheek as Bond and not as bloated as the Mission Impossible flicks – but very easy to follow.

Economic terrorism is the new Cold War and gone are the days of beating the info out of people, now all you need is an internet connection and you are good to go.

Mikhail Barishnikov pops up uncredited as Viktor’s shadowy Russian boss, and Kevin Costner is suitably craggy and tough as Ryan’s no-nonsense recruiter.

This origins film simply screams franchise, but it could be a watchable one, because this one is smooth, filled with enough action to keep the momentum going and enough pseudo-serious spy babble to make it seem intelligent.

Yes, it is simple, but that’s action thrillers for you – they’re not about stretching your mental capacity.

If you liked, Red October or Body of Lies, you will like this.