Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit

How can you possibly miss any film starring Chris Pine, Keira Knightley and Kevin Costner with Kenneth Branagh directing?

Jack Ryan Shadow RecruitThe cold war may be long over and dead, but Jack Ryan’s battle with Soviet villains is alive and well. While there is nothing spectacular about this film, superb actors at the top of their game make it a rather enjoyable romp.

The movie begins with a young Mr. Ryan watching the collapse of the Twin Towers in 2001 as he attended school in London. Following the path that many men took at that time, he soon joins the military.

Thereafter, he is in a horrible helicopter crash while serving in Afghanistan, resulting in a lengthy hospitalization that unites him with a med student and his future love, Keira Knightley. In addition, an observant CIA professional (Kevin Costner) takes him under his wing, and his future as a covert American agent becomes set in stone.

Without saying more, Agent Ryan takes a job on Wall Street where his job is to hunt down would-be terrorists while hiding his CIA identity. It eventually leads him to a company in Moscow attempting to sabotage America’s financial industry, and the battle is on between him and Kenneth Branagh, the great English actor playing an old-fashioned Russian bad guy.

The script keeps you consistently interested, which was reflected by the fact that my 15-year old grandson, Connor, truly enjoyed the film. In addition, Chris Pine does a fine job as Jack Ryan, and I doubt if there is a semi-honest woman alive who is not captivated by his gleaming blue eyes.

Keira Knightley adds to her accomplished resume playing Cathy Muller, the doctor who makes the mistake of embracing Jack Ryan without knowing his role as a government agent. In one of the better moments of the film, she finally forces Ryan to tell her what he is doing when he is constantly away from home. When she learns that he is not having an affair but simply risking his life, she hugs him and joyfully says, “Thank God.”;

There is something that is honest and soothing about Ms. Knightley, and there are some prior films that you simply have to visit. Certainly most of you remember her contribution to the foolish yet incredibly fun series of films with Johnny Depp entitled Pirates of the Carribean (2003-2007). Furthermore, she was memorable as Guinevere in King Arthur (2004); she stood out in Pride and Prejudice (2005) where she played Elizabeth Bennet; she performed  against type as a female bounty hunter in Domino (2005); contributed mightily to the acclaim given Atonement (2007) and joined a mesmerizing cast in the little film about kids who were raised to be organ donors in the film few people saw, Never Let Me Go (2010). Having said that, I’m willing to forgive her for her overcooked role as the deranged woman challenging both Freud and Jung in A Dangerous Method (2011), and her failure to rise above a tepid script in Anna Karenina (2012) really wasn’t her fault.

Additionally, Kevin Costner does a fine job as Thomas Harper, the CIA operative who served as Ryan’s mentor. Without saying more, he is always worth watching.

However, this movie begins and ends with Kenneth Branagh playing the Russian agent destined to destroy America financially while planning a terrorist attack. He has an impeccable background involving Shakespearean dramas, Harry Potter films and the powerful story about the discrimination against Australian aborigines in Rabbit-Proof Fence (2002), and he elevates any film that also allows him to direct.

And for those of you who believe that films about Jack Ryan are too dated to be of any possible interest, I can only ask you to keep in mind where the Winter Olympics are being conducted this year. Somewhere, somehow, the good Mr. Ryan is still trying to defuse a Russian terrorist attack.