Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit (2014) Directed by Kenneth Branagh. With Chris Pine, Kevin Costner, Keira Knightley and Kenneth Branagh.
Kenneth Branagh, the same director who brought the world Henry V, Much Ado About Nothing and Hamlet, has in recent times, embraced the mainstream to become a fast-food director more in touch with the McDonalds generation than the Macbeth one.
Of course, every artist has to adapt and grow, but Branagh’s style seems less evident and more borrowed than it was in his last film, Thor, which itself, was a new vision of a work based upon the work of someone else. All this would be fine, if Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit was a film that did something new or interesting, but disappointingly, it is nothing more than a front-loaded, bland rehash of the Jason Bourne series.
As the titular Jack Ryan, Chris Pine keeps his Captain Kirk haircut, and, save the odd nuance, same performance from Star Trek. His version of Ryan, unlike Harrison Ford’s, is more a cross between Bourne and Bond, moving him closer to that of a comic-book hero. Keira Knightley is brought in to try and anchor some real-world dramatic heft to lever against Pine’s stock and relatively humdrum lead performance, but it’s dust in the wind against a tone that’s itching to get its Bourne on and show us the showy stuff.
When the showy stuff comes, it’s all done in a very professional, mildly engaging way. The problem is, it isn’t nearly enough. Throughout, it lacks genuine peril or excitement, and feels far too safe for its own good. Kenneth Branagh casts himself as the villain of the piece, and perhaps the film’s most interesting character, yet there isn’t much scope for development in a script that opts to keep any risks confined to the stunts performed in the action set-pieces.
With Kevin Costner rounding off the cast and David Koepp co-writing the screenplay, this is a film with some big names attached, yet manages to be utterly forgettable. With a moderately successful run at the box office, it seems likely that we’ll see more from Jack. Lets hope he’s a little less straight and narrow next time. 2.5/5