Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit (2014): Jack Ryan returns to the silver screen in the form of Chris Pine. This time, he is thrown into a scenario in which he must stop the Russians from blowing up a high-value target in the US.
Yay! My first review for a movie from 2014! You always have to be weary of January movies. This is, without any doubt, the worst month for movies out of the year. So far this month has been no exception. Ride Along has bombed. Kevin Hart just can't make the transition from stand-up to movies. A true shame. The Nut Job was just weird. No real rhyme or reason for that random kid's movie with a shocking amount of adult humor in it. Remember the part where Paranormal Activity 5 came out at the start of the month too? Ya that hasn't done well either. I, Frankenstein also just came out but is currently sporting a resounding 5% on Rotten Tomatoes. I may give that a full review but we'll see. Point being, January sucks. So I went into this move with virtually no expectations whatsoever. I was expecting a very standard action movie. What did I get? I got two movies. For the first 60+ minutes, it was a surprisingly awesome action movie. Very original, very smart, very emotionally gripping. I was on the edge of my seat for a while. Then the third act happened. A train wreck to say the least. The final 45 minutes were full of cliques and nick-of-time escapes, amongst many other movie mistakes. So let's dive into it, shall we?
First off, here's what the movie did well. Chris Pine was great as Jack Ryan. He's charming and charismatic, and I hope to see him play this role again. Maybe we'll get what we got in the early 90s where Ford played the character for Patriot Games and Clear and Present Danger. Keira Knightley was good, as always. I really liked the fact that she was not just the damsel in distress. She actually did stuff! That was cool. Also Kenneth Branagh was good as the villain, Viktor. He had a great Russian accent, and while he was a very standard Bond-esque villain, he was still very sinister. He also did a great job directing this too. Oh ya, Kenneth Branagh was also the director. He did a good job with the action pieces all throughout the movie. Between the first Thor and this, he has a very solid reputation for directing a well-shot action movie. I'll give him that. The one-on-one fight between Ryan and another character (in the trailers) was brutal and tense. The phone call afterwards to his handler was arguably the best moment of the entire movie, as a distressed Ryan calls his handler and is in a tremendous amount of emotional stress. Some great writing there. Really, the first 60+ minutes of the film were great. Well written, very tense, very hectic. Quite a few great scenes. Then the third act happened.
So the third act. There might be some spoilers in this upcoming rant, but believe me: the third act becomes like every other action movie ever, so the whole tension thing that was happening in the first and second act is COMPLETELY gone. So, the twists and turns of the first and second act I'll leave for you to find out on your own, but spoilers MAY be upcoming. I'm sorry. So this movie starts falling off the rails as soon the movie leaves Moscow. Jack Ryan and the CIA did some pretty awful things in Moscow that pissed off a lot of Russians. So you would think that leaving the country might be a bit of an issue, right? Well, somehow, the CIA was able to land a supersonic jet filled with a crapton of high-tech computer equipment and then fly that jet through Russian airspace and out of Russia without anyone noticing. There could've been a huge plot point filled with a lot of tension in trying to get Jack Ryan out of Russia, but nope! He gets out. Done. That by itself is just a standard movie mistake, but what happens in the plane is the bigger movie mistake. See when the plane ride starts, the CIA has absolutely no idea who the bad guy is. No leads. No hints. Nothing. In the course of about 5 minutes on a supersonic plane over the Atlantic ocean, the CIA goes from having no leads to not just knowing who the bad guy is, but knowing EXACTLY WHERE HE IS. Just, out of nowhere! Quick! Search this guy! TYPE TYPE TYPE! Quick! Search this guy! TYPE TYPE TYPE! THEY'RE THE SAME GUY! That's our bad guy! BAM. Just a few quick clicks and they know everything they need to know about a sleeper agent the Russians spent years integrating into American society. There should've just been a blank screen with the text saying, ok, moviegoers: we're going to New York City. Just accept it. Not to mention the part where the plane ride from Moscow to NYC takes about 2 hours. Talk about supersonic! But these elements just kill the tension that had been building throughout the first and second act. Not to mention the entire NYC scene is totally unbelievable and incredibly clique. Honestly I would've loved for them to have failed. Ya, it's a terrible thing to say, but it would'e been very memorable. This is technically a prequel, after all. Remember the big point in The Sum of All Fears when they fail and the nuclear bomb goes off in Baltimore? It's been a long time since I've seen that movie, and I still remember it. A cliffhanger-esque ending of them failing would've been really cool! And setting up for at least another sequel with more of Kenneth Branagh's villain. But instead, we get a cardboard cutout of a stereotypical action movie ending, with the standard last-second saves and Jack Ryan all-of-the-sudden turning into Sylvester Stallone and being able to do anything and everything. I still cared about what happened to Ryan and to Keira Knightley and Kevin Costner, but my care level went down a lot by the end of this 105 minute disaster. Honestly, this movie should've contained about 20 more minutes of film. At least. They could've adequately explained how they found the bad guy without a couple of quick clicks. But it was clear that this movie was trying to stay under 2 hours.
So that was a heck of a rant. Ultimately, I would still recommend this to any action fan. There are definitely fewer cliques in here than in something like The Expendables. But still, this movie had so much potential! So much. Then it fell flat on its face.
The Critique: An original and gripping premise that succumbs to the norms of stereotypical action movies by the third act. A major disappointment.
The Recommendation: Still going to recommend this to action fans, but if you aren't one of those, I'd say view at your own risk.
The Verdict: 5.5/10 Slightly Above Average
So much potential......
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