By Anne Thompson and Beth Hanna | Thompson on Hollywood January 15, 2014 at 12:40PM
Reviews have arrived for Kenneth Branagh's Tom Clancy adaptation "Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit," starring Chris Pine as the eponymous CIA-analyst hero. The verdict thus far is that Pine makes for an appealing (and attractive) lead, stepping into the same shoes that Alec Baldwin, Harrison Ford and Ben Affleck did before him. While the action is kept at a good clip, the script falters with too many plot holes left gaping and, per Variety, "too many recycled genre parts."
In an interview with Branagh, who also plays the villain in "Shadow Recruit," TOH! wrote of the film:
The movie looks and sounds great, shot mostly on 35mm, as Branagh makes the most of exotic Moscow locations. But this mainstream picture, while competently enjoyable, can't beat your everyday episode of "Alias," "The Americans" or "Homeland." That's where the fault lies--not in the stars but in the script.
Stepping back into the spotlight just a few months after Tom Clancy’s death, the author’s famed CIA-analyst hero gets a spiffy new avatar but a fairly routine assignment in “Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit.” Crisp, efficient and appreciably modest in scale for a picture that imagines a Russian terrorist attack massive enough to upstage 9/11, this conspicuous attempt to breathe new life into a long-dormant action franchise gets at least a few things right, chiefly the shrewd casting of Chris Pine in a role enjoyably incarnated in the ’90s by Alec Baldwin (“The Hunt for Red October”) and Harrison Ford (“Patriot Games,” “Clear and Present Danger”) before being left for dead by Ben Affleck in 2002′s “The Sum of All Fears.” But while it zips along divertingly enough and capably weaves together various topical threads involving renewed U.S.-Russia hostility and global economic instability, Kenneth Branagh’s latest helming effort ultimately feels assembled from too many recycled genre parts to achieve more than muffled impact in the end.
Chris Pine has startlingly bright blue eyes, thick, dark eyebrows, and a way of seeming to look for something special even when he’s just staring into space—a gift of intentness that works well for him in “Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit,” where he plays the latest incarnation of the intellectually dazzling C.I.A.-analyst hero of many books by Tom Clancy. Early in the movie, a thug tries to kill Ryan in a Moscow hotel, and Pine also gives a successful impression of a man frightened to death—eyes darting wildly, mouth open wider than most acting coaches would advise. He’s an enjoyably talented actor in these early scenes. Like “Batman Begins,” “X-Men Origins: Wolverine,” and “Man of Steel,” the new movie begins as a myth of conception, or, as it’s more commonly known, the reboot of a half-dead franchise.
Branagh the director works hard to keep the momentum going after that scene, but it’s difficult. The details of the fiendish plot feel almost as generic as Cherevin’s doom-laden pronouncements. The staunch old Cold Warrior in Clancy would have appreciated the nostalgic tint to lines like “We will avenge our Mother Russia…America will bleed.” For a last quarter that sends Ryan and Harper scurrying about trying to dismantle Cherevin’s plot, Branagh cranks up the film’s speed, but it’s almost as though he’s just trying to race over the script’s increasing number of potholes.
Take five parts violence to one part sex. Garnish with quips. Serve shaken – not stirred – in a large, expensive film. That's been the recipe for a 007 movie for more than 50 years, and like the classic vodka martini, it's been often adopted, adapted, adulterated and just plain ruined. "Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit" though, gets the international-espionage ingredients almost exactly right…
Yeah, so it's not quite Bond, James Bond. But it's Ryan, Jack Ryan – a promising start to a probable new franchise, and an early bright spot on the late winter film calendar.
While it benefits from an attractive cast, the perennial allure of the spy game and the exoticism of the contemporary Moscow setting, the biggest problem afflicting this modest diversion is that it's the sort of film in which computers get to the bottom of every problem that comes up in about five seconds. It seems like half the running time consists of characters in cars, vans or planes, in their offices or hotels or just on their cell phones managing to download or send whatever secret information is in play with a click or two, and nevermind such cumbersome annoyances as passwords or user IDs. And no one ever needs to call a tech supervisor.