By: Joel Frehn | The Duquesne Duke
The first major blockbuster of 2014 has turned out to be a disappointment.
Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit, released Friday, is a reboot to the film series that includes The Hunt for Red October, Patriot Games and The Sum of all Fears and features the Tom Clancy created character.
The film chronicles three sections of the character’s life: it focuses on the character’s experience in the military before an untimely injury removes him from it. The second act focuses on the character’s recovery and introduction to the CIA, while the final act focuses on his first major assignment as a CIA analyst. As expected, the major assignment involves preventing two-pronged attack on America: first, a terrorist attack, which would be followed by a devastating economic blow. Like A Good Day to Die Hard and Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, the villains who want to harm America and its people are Russians. Unlike the preceding films, the lead Russian villain in this film are not derived from Boris and Natasha from Rocky and Bullwinkle, but is a cousin to Alan Rickman’s character in Die Hard.
This elevation in quality is a result of the adequate writing, but also because of the life breathed into the character by Kenneth Branagh, who also directed the film. Branagh’s portrait of a dying man who wants to pull out the last Jenga block of the country he despises adds a richness to the film. However, Branagh does not overshadow the other lead in the film, Chris Pine, who masterfully shows his character’s evolution-from an inexperienced analyst thrust into the field for the first time and into an experienced field agent.Kevin Costner returns to the role of the wise father figure that he portrayed in Man of Steel, which leads to some nice scenes between him and Pine. Mechanically speaking, the film looks great: the special effects are not over the top or bad, and the locations selected for the films form a character in themselves.
The flaws of the film become apparent when one considers the context of it. The most prominent of the flaws is the message and narrative of the film. 9/11 is the vanishing point for the lines of narrative and allegory: Ryan’s mission in the film consists of preventing another terror attack in New York City. Shadow Recruit argues that if someone like Ryan had been in the intelligence community before 2001, then the infamous day in September could have been prevented. This symbolic argument dates the film in the worst possible way; after the Avengers stopped alien-terrorists from destroying New York City, I’d argue that 9/11 had been refracted in every possible light. It is time to move on and find a new paradigm to inform the counter-terrorist thriller.
Shadow Recruit is a fun action film. Chris Pine excels as usual, the locations are great and the action is choreographed well. It is one of those films to watch and to analyze only for its place in the Ryan mythology, not the post-9/11 cinema.