ByJames M. Tate, writer at
Top Shark Cinema Writer at and Now a Movie Pilot Remora...
James M. Tate

Chris Pine became famous playing a young Captain James T. Kirk in what seemed like standard STAR TREK prequels but turned out being something else entirely, having to do with an alternate universe or timeline, or something…And now he’s a reborn Jack Ryan, author Tom Clancy's resilient CIA operative played by Alec Baldwin in THE HUNT FOR RED OCTOBER and taken over by Harrison Ford in PATRIOT GAMES and A CLEAR AND PRESENT DANGER (and the Ben Affleck attempt).

Like Captain Kirk, this Jack Ryan exists on another plain altogether and, having become more of a timeless James Bond, he’s now part of the 911 generation... And that’s where things start, right on the fateful morning of September 11th, 2001 and Jack, attending college in England, winds up joining the Marines, becomes an injured war hero and is rehabilitated by his doctor, who just happens to be a single and gorgeous Keira Knightley as Cathy Muller…

At this point the film skips past three years like nothing at all. What’s important is Jack’s first assignment takes place in Russia, a once Communist country now (supposedly) bathed in opulent capitalism. His mission is to thwart a plot to... well... let's be carefully cryptic because SHADOW RECRUIT attempts to engage like a page-turning novel wherein various clues and twists keep the story moving…

There is an intense set-up to how Ryan goes from desk jockey to intrepid agent, and yet the best parts don’t deal with sporadic pulse-thumping action sequences. When the chief antagonist is introduced, played by the director himself, Kenneth Branagh, there’s a potentially intriguing James Bond vs cerebral villain aspect… Too bad the results are a predictable kidnapping and an 11th hour terror threat back in America.

In the title role, Chris Pine does a decent enough job: sophisticated one minute and getting his hands dirty the next… Meanwhile the cliché romance between Jack and Cathy pales to the slowburn interaction with Kevin Costner’s CIA mentor Thomas Harper. Both make a pretty good team. The main problem are the computers, so quick to find imperative clues there’s little purpose left for Ryan. While not a perfect espionage thriller, SHADOW is entertaining but ultimately feels like the first half of an introduction stretched into a feature length film…

Let’s hope the next venture (if there is one) goes beneath the modern advancement to see what this new recruit is really made of: Like the Bond franchise shed most of the signature gadgets, Jack needs far less technology to really shine.

Reviewed by James M. Tate

Movie Score: **1/2 out of *****

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