“I saw a comment somewhere on the interwebs last week that referred to Jack Ryan as America’s James Bond. My first thought was no way. He has nowhere near the notoriety of Bond. But then I tried thinking about who else would be. Ethan Hunt could fit the bill except he’s not really known by name, more by franchise, Mission Impossible. If we ignore John McClain’s last Die Hard outting he could be a contender, but you don’t really have the espionage element. So I thought about it a little more. Ryan may not have the screen popularity, but Tom Clancy’s novels are best sellers (I myself have only read Patriot Games). I don’t know him too well as a character, but he does fit the superspy bill. And as I realized while watching Shadow Recruit, you don’t get much more American than wearing jeans while taking down bad guys.
I think this worked really well as a possible franchise starter. Jack Ryan has appeared in several different movies played by almost as many actors with no real consistency between them. At least as far as I can tell. I’ve only seen one, maybe two. While I often complain about origin stories, I thought this one was appropriate. His character has been around for ages, but now he’s being firmly reestablished in a post 9/11 America. I really liked that. He sees the attack, and feels led to join the military. Injury sidelines him, and he’s recruited by the CIA for an analyst position. He reluctantly gets thrown into, shall we say, a more active role. Thus a (possible) action icon is born.
I just found it really refreshing to see him struggling with his new role. Not wanting it. Not really knowing what to do, but having great instincts that guided him and set him up to be a future super spy. This, combined with real mtoivation, is how you set up a franchise. It also helps that Kenneth Branagh helmed (as well as starred) in it. The classically trained actor/director with serious Shakespeare cred among other things launched Thor into the stratosphere with substantial character work in what could have been a throwaway superhero movie, and he did similar for Jack Ryan (while having fun as our baddie). Chris Pine with his boyish charm and badass attitude is a fitting choice to portray Ryan. He’s been upping his action skills and his star status, so he could certainly do great things with this franchise.
I very much enjoyed how the film played out. More subversion than action, which meant suspense over aesthetics (read: explosions). Stream lined plot that just kept moving, and non-negligable dimension to the characters. Towards the end, I was checking my watch wanting to run to the next movie, but instead of wishing for this one to end so I could get going (as is usually the case) I was perfectly content to stay and keep watching. I just hope the Hollywood big shots are equally content with what they’ve started and will continue to give us more to watch.
Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit – \m/ \m/ \m/ \m/