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Rebooted Patriot Games In 'Jack Ryan' PDF Print E-mail
Written by Jake Coyle AP Film Writer   
Wednesday, 22 January 2014 21:32

Upper Left to right: Chris Pine is Jack Ryan and Kevin Costner is Thomas Harper in
JACK RYAN: SHADOW RECRUIT, from Paramount Pictures and Skydance Productions.

Having clung to the Russians as go-to villains long after the Cold War thawed, the movies find themselves current again with their favorite arch-enemy. Cooling Russo-American relations have yielded an opening for the return of Tom Clancy's CIA analyst, just in time for the Sochi Olympics. In the Jack Ryan reboot, "Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit,'' Chris Pine takes over as the spy who was played by Alec Baldwin ("The Hunt for Red October''), Harrison Ford ("Patriot Games,'' "Clear and Present Danger'') and Ben Affleck ("The Sum of All Fears'').

It's a decent legacy of a dark-haired, intellectual action hero. Ryan is a navigator of murky, reasonably realistic, international espionage worlds. He has neither James Bond's preternatural suavity nor Jason Bourne's visceral butt-kicking skills, but instead anxiously finds his way with patriotic cunning. "Shadow Recruit,'' which was scripted without a Clancy book by Adam Cozad and David Koepp, tells a new backstory for Ryan. Inspired by Sept. 11, he joins the Marines and is heroically injured in Afghanistan.

During his recovery, he meets his eventual fiancee (a doctor named Cathy played by Keira Knightley) and is lured to the CIA by a mysterious recruiter (Kevin Costner, unconvincingly trying to exude a Donald Sutherlandlike gravitas). He's covertly embedded at a Wall Street bank where he uncovers a Russian plot to buy up U.S. Treasury bonds, which he suspects will be sold off in a coordinated act of terrorism and currency devaluation.

Surely, if Ronald Reagan (whose endorsement of Clancy's first novel, "The Hunt for Red October,'' propelled his fame) was still around, he'd swoon over a spy thriller based on the harrowing threat of inflation. Ryan's investigation leads him to the Russian oligarch Viktor Cherevin, played by Kenneth Branagh, who also directed the film. Certainly, it takes a bite out of the nationalistic politics when the movie's villain is played by a knighted British actor known for his Shakespeare work. Branagh endows his film with (mostly) old-fashioned competency _ something often lacking in today's action films _ but little to distinguish it from superior thrillers that have come before.

The best thing here is the sleekness of modern Moscow, where much of the action takes place. The film is filled with a nighttime mix of neon and taillights set against the Kremlin and other monuments _ a handsome enough rendering to send a viewer back to the recent Bond, "Skyfall,'' for those elegant Shanghai scenes. But "Shadow Recruit'' is also disappointingly formulaic, relying on the familiar set piecedriven story of an implausible heist and a time-bomb finale. Knightley is too strong a force for this girlfriend role.

And when the global scheme is figured out in a minute with a bank of computer-searching analysts, one foresees the obsolescence of the action film: sprawling plots undone with a few keystrokes. One unlikely cameo should be noted: New York's famed repertory art-house theater, the Film Forum, appears early in the movie when Ryan swaps information at a screening of "Sorry, Wrong Number.'' At least in "Shadow Recruit,'' the interior has finally been upgraded to plush stadium seating. "Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit,'' a Paramount Pictures release, is rated PG-13 by the Motion Picture Association of America for "sequences of violence and intense action, and brief language.'' Running time: 105 minutes. Two stars out of four.

Last Updated on Thursday, 23 January 2014 17:35