He might be a number-cruncher but this latest incarnation of Jack Ryan sure likes his letters: One day he's doing a PhD at the LSE, the next he's traded the USMC for the CIA to prevent a GFC triggered by baddies in the former USSR.

Well, that's the abbreviated version of Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit the first of five movies to have featured the Tom Clancy character's name in the title and the first not to adapt one of the late writer's books but rely on an original screenplay - and some less than original plot manoeuvres, especially in the otherwise enjoyable thriller's deflating final laps.

This casts Chris Pine, who's already done impressive reboot duties as Star Trek's Captain Kirk, as Ryan. His all-American over-achiever shares a similar CV and service record to the guy who started out in Clancy's The Hunt for Red October, the defecting Soviet submarine caper which, as a movie, cast Alec Baldwin in the role.

Harrison Ford made him the technocrat-as-family-guy for two films - 1992's Patriot Games and 1994's Clear and Present Danger.


Then it was up to Ben Affleck's Ryan to save the world in 2002's The Sum of All Fears, a movie which nuked the Superbowl less than a year after 9/11.

Here, young brainbox Ryan puts his London School of Economics doctorate studies on hold to join the US Marine Corps to fight in Afghanistan in the wake of 9/11. He's seriously injured but there's an upside - he takes up with medical student Cathy Muller (Keira Knightley) while CIA handler William Harper (Kevin Costner) recruits him to spy on his eventual Wall Street employers for signs of dubious finance dealings with terrorist connections. Eventually, he spots some which, if he's right, could mean global economic disaster. They're connected to a Moscow company which is in partnership with his own and headed by cruel oligarch Viktor Cheverin (Branagh, also directing) who doesn't take kindly to young Ryan turning up to kick ..., um, audit the place.

Cathy turns up too, complicating matters but joining in the fun as Ryan, Harper and team attempt a Mission: Impossible on Cheverin's HQ. Which, after all the set-up, is the point a movie like this should be kicking into higher gear. Only, JR:SR doesn't quite have the gearbox.

It's no big budget action spectacular, despite one Bourne-inspired fight scene and a touch of Bond glamour. It's a movie of two helicopters, one decent explosion and its car chases are decidedly pedestrian - Ryan actually completes one of them on foot.

Still, the main characters and the performances behind them are nicely pitched. Pine may not look like the smartest guy in the room but he brings it off. Costner is a convincing spymaster and Branagh's villain is pure vodka-cured ham. It's funny to watch him and Knightley's character, left alone at the dinner table, discussing Russian literature in accents not their own, and while one of them is also directing a movie that's an updated origin story to a series of American airport novels.

Yes JR:SR does the talking-acting bits well. But it can't quite match them with action or get past the feeling that this reboot story is an unspectacular retread of so many others.





Chris Pine, Kevin Costner, Keira Knightley, Kenneth Branagh


Kenneth Branagh


M (violence)


Running time:

105 mins


Clancy's CIA guy rebooted as kick-ass accountant

- TimeOut