The latest saga of CIA analyst, Jack Ryan, begins with Ryan attending the London School of Economics as a student. The horror of 9/11 leads to Jack enlisting in the Marines where he is severely injured. Spending months in rehab, Jack grabs the attention of Harper, a high ranking CIA officer, who invites Jack to work for him in an effort to uncover any acts of terrorism using his finance skills. Working for Harper, Jack uncovers strange financial transactions in the accounts of Cherevin, a high ranking Russian business man. Jack heads to Russia where he uncovers a Russian terrorist plot against the United States which takes him out of his desk job and into the spy world. Kenneth Branagh's Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit is a serviceable spy thriller that is admirable if only for its old-school approach. In this day and age where action films feel the need to bombard the viewer with explosions and other forms of sensory overload, Jack Ryan is a reserved piece of filmmaking. The film begins with an incredibly cheap and quite frankly insulting attempt to instill emotion into its viewers, conjuring up 9/11 imagery. While the attempt to get the narrative moving is admirable, it's completely unnecessary as an inciting incident into why Jack decided to fight for his country. The film could have just as easily started in Afghanstan and wouldn't have been nearly as emotionally manipulative in doing so, while still capturing Jack's commitment to his country. From there the film does get better, though the script leaves something to be desired, using a methodical, reserved approach in developing its action thriller narrative in a way that is very rare these days for major studio released. The action set pieces are few and far between and I mean that as a complement, as this film doesn't rely on these scenes to keep the film somewhat interesting, understanding the spy game of deceit can be just as entertaining. Unfortunately, Jack Ryan's old-school approach is a strength and a weakness at times, attempting to reignite the cold war days in a way that makes it feel awfully familiar and uninteresting. Kenneth Branagh's Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit could be described as the definition of a sub-par spy thriller, not bad enough to be disliked, but not interesting enough to set itself apart.
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