21 January 2014 | quicksticks
Pine, Branagh steal show in spy thriller
AN international spy thriller with a character-driven narrative and a plot relevant to our modern day are the crucial elements to give this well-balanced blockbuster the backbone for some decent viewing. In Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit, the genesis of Tom Clancy's much adored creation makes its way to the big screen with Chris Pine taking control of yet another one of Hollywood's big characters. Kenneth Branagh — director of Thor and known for his performances in and direction of Shakespeare plays on both screen and stage — directs a stellar cast in the first screenplay not to be based on a Clancy novel. Jack Ryan is an undercover CIA agent working on Wall Street and it is his job to monitor irregularities in international money trading that could eventually lead to terrorist funding. When he notices an anomaly happening with a Russia-based company, he is sent on a mission to Moscow to uncover a potential threat against the United States economy. In the past, the character of Jack Ryan has been depicted by Hollywood old-timer Harrison Ford and Alec Baldwin and an attempt to "reboot" the character in the 2002 Sum of all Fears with Ben Affleck, was neither a hit nor a miss. Hopefully, Mr Affleck can put in a star performance in 2016 when he dons the cape and cowl. After giving a commanding rendition as Captain Kirk in Star Trek into Darkness last year, Pine once again puts in a solid performance of carrying a well-educated Jack Ryan throughout the film. His character is damaged, untrusting, and fragile and puts his country before anything. One scene that really leaves audiences with discomfort is when Jack Ryan makes his first kill. It is brutal, effective and realistic — reminding me of the cold opener in Casino Royale. Kevin Costner gets a large chunk of screen time acting as Jack Ryan's mentor, while the beautiful Keira Knightley shines as the girlfriend — but is sometimes annoying with her fake American accent. And then we have Branagh, who plays the good, old-fashioned Russian tough guy antagonist. Putting it quite simply: Branagh is brilliant. This is not an action film. It is an espionage spy thriller with a few action scenes. So if you are expecting a film with more explosions than dialogue, you might be disappointed — it is directed by Kenneth Branagh after all. Just like Skyfall, the action scenes aren't anything new or breathtaking, but the tension and intensity built up on screen will keep audiences content. If the Dishfire reports are getting too real for you, head down to your local theatre and watch Jack Ryan take on the international villains instead.