Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit
dir Kenneth Branagh
scr Adam Cozad, David Koepp
prd David Barron, Lorenzo di Bonaventura, Mace Neufeld, Mark Vahradian
with Chris Pine, Keira Knightley, Kevin Costner, Kenneth Branagh, Lenn Kudrjawizki, Alec Utgoff, Peter Andersson, Elena Velikanova, Nonso Anozie, Seth Ayott, Colm Feore, Gemma Chan
release US 17.Jan.14, UK 24.Jan.14
14/US Paramount 1h45
Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit
Learning from the master: Pine and Costner

knightley branagh anozie
See also:
The Sum of All Fears (2002)
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Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit With a slow-building intensity, this thriller gets under our skin even though the screenplay has its share of boneheaded plotting and trite action movie cliches. But the film is sleek and robustly well-made, and the actors bring some weight to their roles to make the film feel smarter and more interesting than it actually is.

After being inspired to join the Marines by 9/11, brainy financial expert Jack (Pine) is recruited by CIA operative Harper (Costner) to work undercover on Wall Street, tracing terrorist funds. And it isn't until 2012 that Jack stumbles onto a series of dodgy dealings by the shadowy Russian businessman Cherevin (Branagh). Meanwhile, Jack's oblivious girlfriend Cathy (Knightley) begins to suspect that he's up to something, so she surprises him on a business trip to Moscow. And now she's involved in the operation too, and they don't have much time to stop a global economic attack.

The brisk opening act cleverly plots Jack's trajectory from carefree student to dedicated soldier to white-collar spy to international action man. Although his sudden displays of physical prowess feel more than a little contrived (when did he have time to study stunt motorcycle-riding?). At least Pine plays him as an everyman rising to whatever challenge comes along, which helps us identify with him at least until the action boils over.

As a director, Branagh infuses every moment with gravitas, carefully undermining scenes with humour just when needed most. He also gets meaty performances from the cast, each of whom add details to their characters. Costner hasn't been this cool and lean in ages, while Branagh himself adds a disturbing lip-less menace to every scene. Knightley does her best with an under-developed role, almost making us believe she's an American medical doctor.

But then, it's not about how much we believe. As a director, Branagh isn't as crisp with action scenes as, say, Paul Greengrass is with the Bourne movies (but who is?). And the script is full of wildly over-the-top action and ridiculous implausibilities. But everything comes together to lock us in an entertaining vice grip of suspense. And even though we know exactly how it has to end (this is a franchise reboot after all), we have plenty of fun getting there.

cert 12 themes, language, violence 15.Jan.14

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