Remember when Kenneth Branagh directed movies like Much Ado About Nothing and Hamlet? Well, now he seems to enjoy directing big-budget Hollywood action flicks. At least he’s enjoying them. After the sub-par Thor, he’s taking on the iconic character of Jack Ryan, the literal creation of Tom Clancy and made famous on the screen by Harrison Ford (Ben Affleck and Alec Baldwin also tackled the character).
Chris Pine is the latest actor to take on the role, and he’s serviceable in the role. There’s an interesting setup to modernize the character for 2014. After 9/11, Jack quits school and joins the Marines to serve his country. After being injured, he rehabilitates himself into top form and is recruited by the CIA to be a covert agent. That’s pretty much where Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit stops being interesting. And that’s only the first 15 minutes.
Jack’s cover job is a compliance officer at a stock brokerage, and the plot gets started when he notices some suspicious Russian accounts. Yeah, the plot is mainly about stocks. Exciting stuff, eh? The story never lifts off the ground. Kevin Costner is completely miscast as the veteran CIA agent. I didn’t believe for a second that he was this tough, seasoned gunman. Keira Knightley talks in an American accent, and it’s just weird. Not that there’s anything wrong with her accent, it’s just odd hearing her cover her British tongue, and I don’t see why she needed to be American. She has some nice chemistry with Pine, and their relationship is the most intriguing part of the film, but that’s all abandoned by the third act when she just becomes a “damsel in distress”.
Branagh casts himself as the villain, but then he’s absent from the climax of the film. At that point, you don’t care anyways. Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit wants to be the new The Bourne Identity, but it’s far from it. It has a lackluster story, weak action, miscast actors, and definitely won’t be starting up a new franchise.