Tom Clancy’s popular, literary creation Jack Ryan has been brought to the big screen before. Having been portrayed by a series of actors such as Ben Affleck, Harrison Ford and Alec Baldwin, the latest Hollywood A-list star to tackle the eponymous role is Chris Pine, as he stars in Kenneth Branagh’s Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit. However where this latest endeavour differs from what came before, is that this picture isn’t based on any specific novel, instead allowing screenwriters Adam Cozad and David Koepp to use their own artistic licence.
Bringing the character to a more contemporary, relatable world, we watch on as Jack Ryan rises from being a student living in London, to being headhunted by Kevin Costner’s Thomas Harper to work as a covert analyst for the CIA. Though head over heels in love with his girlfriend Cathy Muller (Kiera Knightley), Jack is forbidden from revealing his elusive vocation. Therefore when he sets off for a job in Moscow, she follows behind him, to discover exactly what it is he gets up to behind her back. However she may not have wanted to get caught up in his business after all, as Jack is to investigate the shady Russian businessman Viktor Cherevin (Branagh), who is the suspect in a forthcoming terrorist attack designed to crash the US economy.
The fact this production is based on an original narrative, allows for us to delve into more coherent, accessible themes such as 9/11 and the financial collapse. It’s a story that’s been brought to life well, as Branagh – who is renowned predominantly for his tackling of Shakespeare, tries his hand at something a little different, following on from his surprise venture into the Marvel universe with Thor. His character, Cherevin, is the most intriguing too, deviating away from the typical, Hollywood antagonist, in turn for a more humanised role, as rather that be physically intimidating, we have a cunning intellectualist, who is vulnerable and fragile, with a terminal case of cirrhosis.
Pine does a worthy job also, while his chemistry with Knightley is impressive, especially given the initial apprehensions. In fact, the romantic angle works well – as it’s more subtle and understated in how it’s presented, not bogging down the film like superfluous love stories so often do in films of this ilk. Nonetheless, it’s not enough of a saving grace for a film draped in conventionality, as one that’s so unadventurous and seemingly content at settling for mediocrity. Enjoyable this may be, but memorable it is not.