Film Reviews

Film Review: Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit

In the decades after the Cold War, much of the landscape of clandestine warfare had transformed itself from the confines of blacklists and microfilm to the vast ether of information and data across the globe. Spies and their craft had changed, and with it, Hollywood’s portrayal. The practice had gone from jabbing someone with a poison-tipped umbrella to taking down entire nations with access from a computer; and so Hollywood had to evolve its sleuths from uber charming, yet seemingly unflappable womanizers to flawed, troubled and broken men. Jason Bourne became the modern day spy. James Bond became Jason Bourne and almost every spy since, has had a Bourneness to them that we, the movie-going audience seem to relate to. There’s now a vulnerability grounded in reality. Where once luxury sports cars turning into submarines was acceptable, it is now the norm for our agents to be armed with nothing more than a pistol, some training and their wit, facing their greatest of enemies in the reality we all find ourselves in.

Jack Ryan, perhaps author Tom Clancy’s finest creation, has been off grid since the Ben Affleck-starring The Sum of All Fears in 2002. It was an admirable entry into the Jack Ryan series but lacked the tension and imminent fear that presented itself in previous Jack Ryan outings- most notably in the still terrific The Hunt For Red October. In the ten or so years proceeding, much has changed in the world, and while nuclear threat seems to loom far in the background, the prescient danger continues to be that of technological warfare threatening to undermine our most treasured of security: finance. Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit is the official reboot of the Jack Ryan franchise and sees our protagonist continue his Benjamin Button act since Harrison Ford last donned the title in 1994’s Clear And Present Danger. The character’s genesis is beginning at a younger age we are given more of his development before delving into the primary plot of the film.

Imminent danger

Imminent danger

Chris Pine’s Jack Ryan falls somewhere between Alec Baldwin and Harrison Ford’s; young enough to be brash and reckless, but at the same time, boasting a quality that convinces audiences he will grow into the Jack Ryan of old. Pine is surrounded by a pretty well-to-do cast that includes Kevin Costner (playing Ryan’s mentor and super-agent William Harper), Keira Knightley (Ryan’s eventual love interest and femme fatale Cathy Muller) and the irrepressible Kenneth Branagh (pulling double duty serving as the film’s primary antagonist Viktor Cherevin, as well as its director). The film is stronger for their parts, and while Costner’s role is quite restrained, there is an air of importance to him that works within the confines of the film. We’re also given a colourful palette of characters breathing out the warm air of nostalgia with its heavy Russian-villain lean. It’s the film’s most prominent connection to the spy films of old, and perhaps, beneficial in giving Shadow Recruit a sense of freshness. Surprisingly, Knightley’s character displays the cast’s biggest single nitpicky flaw. Knightley’s strikingly beautiful accent is stripped of its allure as she yams and yahs through a pretty terrible American accent. It’s the ‘Charlize Theron in Monster’ of accents (and not in the ‘winning an Oscar for the performance’ kind of way).

Unlike The Sum of All Fears, we’re given the less far-reaching plot of espionage cloaked in today’s turbulent and volatile financial landscape. Jack Ryan, CIA analyst, is tasked on uncovering a Russian plot to destroy America by crippling its financial structure. It’s all smartly done with the kind of explanatory tone that never breaches into condescension or overly smart. We’re given a look into the evolution of the Jack Ryan character- from tired economics student to battered and broken marine, and finally to the film’s primary voice; the analyst. While the film progresses over the course of a decade, it never grows tiresome and moves briskly through its narrative stages. The action is thick and heavy, and we’re once again grounded in the kind of hand to hand combat The Bourne Identity cemented as the preferred palette. The pace is comfortable and the dialogue smart, and much of the film exudes the kind of excitement and tension The Hunt For Red October is noted for.

Branagh’s direction resonates beautifully amongst the steel and structure of both New York City and Moscow; and in a particularly harrowing scene between himself and Knightley’s character, given a real sense of isolated terror and impending doom. Who knew lightbulbs could be so dangerous?

The spy genre may be one of the fields of film that has excelled the most in the post 9/11 world. They’re more grounded and realistic and to that extent, far more believable. Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit is an exciting new beginning for the franchise, and while it may not be as alluring as the original Jason Bourne outing, the Jack Ryan franchise hasn’t felt this right since the early 90s.



Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit is in the cinemas now. 


Directed by: Kenneth Branagh
Written by: Adam Cozad, David Koepp
Cast: Chris Pine, Kevin Costner, Keira Knightley, Kenneth Branagh
Released by: Paramount Pictures
Running time: 105 minutes


The final trailer for JJ Abrams‘ much anticipated sci-fi sequel Star Trek Into Darkness has hit the web. The trailer continues the themes of peril the crew faces in light of a new evil, played by Sherlock’s Benedict Cumberbatch.

Shall we begin? Looks a little like the end. Star Trek Into Darkness hits cinemas in May.


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Megamind stops Unstoppable for Box Office win

The Brain has beaten Denzel. For the second week running, the Will Ferrell-starring animated flick Megamind has won the weekend Box Office, stopping in its tracks the runaway action film Unstoppable. Megamind grossed an estimated $30 million to bring its total gross to $89 million in two weeks.

The Denzel Washington/Chris Pine vehicle Unstoppable, about a runaway train, pulled up in second place with an estimated $23.5 million haul. New entries into the charts include the alien invasion film Skyline (which pulled in $11.6 million for a fourth place debut) and the Rachel McAdams/Harrison Ford romantic comedy Morning Glory which came in fifth with roughly $9.6 million.

Overall totals from the same time last year were down 10% however.

This coming weekend, expect Harry Potter & The Deathly Hallows (Part 1) to dominate globally.

Box Office Weekend:
01. Megamind: $30,100,000
02. Unstoppable: $23,500,000
03. Due Date: $15,500,000
04. Skyline: $11,700,000
05. Morning Glory: $9,600,000
06. For Colored Girls: $6,800,000
07. Red: $5,000,000
08. Paranormal Activity 2: $3,000,000
09. Saw 3D: $2,900,000
10. Jackass 3D: $2,300,000


Jack Ryan reboot gets Chris Pine and new writer

The planned reboot for the Jack Ryan series has secured itself a brand new writer to go along with its new star.

Having confirmed Star Trek star Chris Pine as the new Jack Ryan, it was reported today that Sherlock Holmes writer Anthony Peckman will come on board as the movie’s scriptwriter.

The character, created by novelist Tom Clancy, has previously been portrayed in Hollywood by Alec Baldwin, Ben Affleck and most famously, Harrison Ford. The last film, 2002’s Sum Of All Fears, fared well at the box office earning nearly $200 million.

Reports coming in state that the new film, tentatively titled Moscow, will feature Jack Ryan before he joins the CIA. Filming is expected to start early next year.

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Fake trailer watch: Star Trek

The “fake” (fan made) trailer for J.J. Abrams’ much anticipated Star Trek revisit made its way on to the net recently and caused quite a stir … why? Because it’s quite well done- obviously without any “footage” from the film, but as a teaser, it does what it is suppose to do- generate interest, excitement, and discussion. Even if it is fake.

Lets hope this J.J. Abrams redux is more movie magic and less nerdy nerdiness that has plagued the very TV movie-like aura of the last few Star Trek films. The next installment details the early adventures of Captain James T. Kirk and Spock, casting young actors Chris Pine and Zachary Quinto (Heroes) in the respective roles. Early information has stated that appearances from the original cast members is also likely (at this point, Leonard Nimoy is the only confirmed original cast member slated to appear). Star Trek will also feature Wynona Rider, Jennifer Morrison (House), John Cho (Harold & Kumar), Simon Pegg, and Eric Bana.

The new film is slated to hit cinemas December 25th, 2008 and was written by Continue reading