Starring: Chris Pine, Keira Knightly, Kevin Costner, Kenneth Branagh, Lenn Kudrjawizki, Alec Utgoff

Directed by: Kenneth Branagh

Synopsis: Jack Ryan, as a young covert CIA analyst, uncovers a Russian plot to crash the U.S. economy with a terrorist attack.

I must admit to never having seen a Jack Ryan movie before, be it Alec Baldwin, Harrison Ford or Ben Affleck. I had no previous knowledge of the character, but knew exactly what Shadow Recruit would be like before viewing. The reason being? The Bourne Identity. No film about spies or spying has ever been the same since. They all, still, have to follow the new rules set by the Bourne films. Even James Bond and Ethan Hunt are in thrall to good old Jason, and Jack Ryan is the latest super spy to fall for his charms.

You see, Bourne did away with all the cheesy aspects of intelligence that Bond had started to introduce via Connery and Moore. Bourne liked realistic fights and car chases. No wisecracking with him. Shadow Recruit follows the now familiar path, and largely succeeds, until the wholly predictable last twenty minutes or so.

This is an origins story, as we see Ryan (Chris Pine) go from college freshman to war hero to data analyst for the CIA to lethal killer. After his story is told, we uncover the fact that the Russians (the go to baddie?) are up to something dodgy and something must be done. The Russian in question is a rich one (aren’t they all) played by director Kenneth Branagh, and he doesn’t like America.

The film is all going well for the first hour. Ryan is trying to hide his employment from his girlfriend, whilst trying to carry out his mission. She is suspicious and turns up in Moscow where the truth comes out. They go to dinner with Branagh’s Viktor Cherevin in what is the best moment in the film, as Ryan tries to download some information whilst his girlfriend (Knightly) tries to charm Cherevin. There are some good fight scenes as well, until, to me, it all fell down. Shadow Recruit seemed like it was trying to be a smart, intelligent take on spy movies, until the point that the bad guys kidnapped Ryan’s girl. Then it turned all ‘car chasy’ and over the top action that see’s people hanging out of cars driving at 70MPH through traffic. You know, the typical stuff. That’s where my interested ended to be honest. Seen it all before and didn’t like it then either.

Pine was adequate if a bit uncharismatic as Jack Ryan. For me he fell in between the James Bond’s. He had neither the wit or charm of the early Bond’s, neither the intensity of Daniel Craig, meaning he was a bit flat. Knightly was surprisingly OK as his girlfriend and Branagh and Costner were decent enough in their roles.

I suppose I was expecting too much from Shadow Recruit seeing as it was a big blockbuster, but it does mean I have to knock the score down some what.

3 clappers

About thomasjford

I like Movies and Music and most things popular culture.


  1. Nice call on Bourne being the benchmark – sounds like that adjective ‘adequate’ can be used to describe this film as a whole

  2. Good review, Tom. This is a film for my TBW list, perhaps not top of the list. Whenever Entertain offers it for an appropriate fee, we’ll give it a go.

  3. Bourne pretty much ruined every other spy film. These new ones need to take a new direction

  4. Fantastic review, really to the point. I think this movie is one grand cliché: the hero, the villain, the girl, the secret organisation. Another one good for the archives.

  5. I liked this one plenty and felt like if the studios decided to back it up and give it its own franchise, then I would have no problem with that whatsoever. One can only hope. Good review.

  6. giorge thomas

    I’m so surprised that Kenneth Branagh directed this. Doesn’t seem to be his kind of genre.

    I think I’ve reached a point where any movie involving Keira Knightly turns me off. I uses to love her but now I find her horribly annoying.

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