JACK RYAN: SHADOW RECRUIT – Review by Susan Granger

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This is the fifth espionage thriller revolving around Tom Clancy’s CIA operative Jack Ryan, an intrepid character previously played by Alec Baldwin (“The Hunt for Red October”), Harrison Ford (“Patriot Games,” “Clear and Present Danger”) and Ben Affleck (“The Sum of All Fears”). “Shadow Recruit” is not only a prequel, detailing how Ryan was recruited into the CIA, but also the first story not based directly on one of Tom Clancy’s novels. Read on…

Scripted by Adam Cozad and David Koepp, it introduces young Jack (Chris Pine) as a student at the London School of Economics on 9/11, as the attack on the World Trade Center occurs. Fiercely patriotic, Ryan immediately joins the Marines, only to be blown out of the sky over Afghanistan. Recuperating at Walter Reed, he falls in love with Cathy Muller (Keira Knightley), the med student in charge of his physical therapy. He’s also spotted by Naval Cmdr. William Harper (Kevin Costner), who sends him back to get his economics degree and then places him as a systems analyst on Wall Street, covertly reporting to the CIA. When Ryan suddenly becomes suspicious of his firm’s financial dealings, he’s dispatched to Russia for an audit, which infuriates manipulative oligarch Viktor Cheverin (Kenneth Branagh) and his government minister boss (uncredited Mikhail Baryshnikov), who have concocted an elaborate tech scheme to launch another terrorist attack and crash the U.S. economy. Meanwhile, Cathy decides to surprise Jack by joining him at his Moscow hotel, unwittingly placing herself right in the middle of the dangerous action.

As director, Kenneth Branagh handles the derring-do with finesse, but the clichéd plot is so familiar and predictable that it seems to be on recycle mode with by-the-numbers filmmaking. Having established himself as youthful Capt. James T. Kirk in the “Star Trek” reboot, Chris Pine gamely grapples with the pure physicality of Ryan, particularly when he’s engaged in hand-to-hand combat with a huge Ugandan assassin.

On the Granger Movie Gauge of 1 to 10, “Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit” is an efficient, escapist 6, a mid-winter popcorn picture.

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Susan Granger

Susan Granger

Susan Granger is a product of Hollywood. Her natural father, S. Sylvan Simon, was a director and producer at R.K.O., M.G.M. and Columbia Pictures; her adoptive father, Armand Deutsch, produced movies at M.G.M. As a child, Susan appeared in movies with Abbott & Costello, Red Skelton, Lucille Ball, Margaret O'Brien and Lassie. She attended Mills College in California, studying journalism with Pierre Salinger, and graduated from the University of Pennsylvania, Phi Beta Kappa, with highest honors in journalism. During her adult life, Susan has been on radio and television as an anchorwoman and movie/drama critic. Her newspaper reviews have been syndicated around the world, and she has appeared on American Movie Classics cable television. In addition, her celebrity interviews and articles have been published in REDBOOK, PLAYBOY, FAMILY CIRCLE, COSMOPOLITAN, WORKING WOMAN and THE NEW YORK TIMES, as well as in PARIS MATCH, ELLE, HELLO, CARIBBEAN WORLD, ISLAND LIFE, MACO DESTINATIONS, NEWS LIMITED NEWSPAPERS (Australia), UK DAILY MAIL, UK SUNDAY MIRROR, DS (France), LA REPUBBLICA (Italy), BUNTE (Germany), VIP TRAVELLER (Krisworld) and many other international publications through SSG Syndicate. Susan also lectures on the "Magic and Mythology of Hollywood" and "Don't Take It Personally: Conquering Criticism and other Survival Skills," originally published on tape by Dove Audio.