By Bill Wine
KYW Newsradio 1060
PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — He’s Ryan, Jack Ryan. Played by Pine, Chris Pine. With a nod to Bond, James Bond. But with an advanced degree in economics.
Having succeeded and replaced William Shatner as Captain Kirk in the Star Trek franchise, Pine now succeeds and replaces a character who has already been portrayed by three different actors in four different movies.
His title character in the global action thriller Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit makes him the fourth actor (following Alec Baldwin in The Hunt for Red October, Harrison Ford in Patriot Games and Clear and Present Danger, and Ben Affleck in The Sum of All Fears) to play the fictional CIA analyst created by the late novelist Tom Clancy.
Shadow Recruit is a glossy and absorbing espionage origin story, set back when Ryan was working as a financial analyst on Wall Street — and the first Ryan flick not based on a Clancy novel but pulled from several “Jack Ryan” stories — that looks in on him at the start of his career and shows how he got involved with the CIA in the first place.
Having attended the London School of Economics, joined the US Marines, and fought terrorism in Afghanistan after 9/11 (all before the opening credits even roll), and while working as a junior analyst for the CIA’s covert financial intelligence office, Ryan finds himself at the center of a Russian plot to crash the US economy, inadvertently discovering evidence of an imminent terrorist attack.
Hoping to verify what he has unearthed, Ryan is promoted to field agent and sent to Moscow to continue his investigation, where he encounters a wealthy Russian business executive/mobster named Viktor Cherevin -– played with relish and enjoyable hamminess by the film’s director, Kenneth Branagh –- who just might be involved in a scheme to cripple the global economy.
Keira Knightley becomes Ryan’s fiancée after meeting him as his doctor-in-training, while Kevin Costner is the US Navy commander and veteran CIA handler who first recruited Ryan as a covert CIA agent to investigate international financial terrorism.
Where Ryan finds himself on this occasion is in a race against time to avoid the blowing up of Wall Street and thus an economic devastation that would threaten the American way of life.
Director Branagh (Thor, Sleuth, As You Like It, Hamlet, Frankenstein), working from a screenplay by Adam Cozad and David Koepp, attempts to launch a new franchise and may have done just that with a Mission: Impossible-like cat-and-mouse vehicle that moves along briskly, offers a number of tense and exciting scenes, and concludes satisfyingly with a ticking-clock climax.
Pine plays his analyst-turned-operative as admirably bright and justifiably scared, not as a strong and physically skilled action hero (although, that said, Branagh still allows him to operate at an implausible level of physical prowess) but as a resourceful brainiac who is both admirable and likable.
And Branagh, Knightley, and Costner provide valuable and highly watchable support.
So I spy 3 stars out of 4. Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit is a fast-paced suspense thriller about financial terrorism that makes us welcome recruits and just might assure the title character of at least one more big-screen adventure.