Jack Ryan : Shadow Recruit  (2014)    73/100

Rating :   73/100                                                                     105 Min        12A

Finally – a new Keira Knightley film woohoo! No doubt everyone was as distraught as I was when last year didn’t feature miss Knightley in any film on general release, but here she is back on fine form as Cathy, the wife of the late Tom Clancy’s long running fictional character Jack Ryan, with Chris Pine filling in his shoes – he has been previously played by Alec Baldwin (‘The Hunt for Red October’ 90), Harrison Ford (‘Patriot Games’ 92, ‘Clear and Present Danger’ 94) and Ben Affleck (‘The Sum of All Fears’ 02). The role of his wife was a fairly small one in the previous films, and screenwriters Adam Cozad and David Koepp have done a good job of writing her a larger part whilst managing the difficult task of avoiding it becoming too cheesy or predictable, although despite the end of the cold war, the Russians are still the bad guys.

Clancy passed away last October (the film is dedicated to him), and this is the first movie to feature his characters but to not be based on one of his novels, and one does wonder what he would make of it. It’s a series reboot, with Ryan initially an economics student in London who becomes galvanised to join the Marines after the 9/11 attacks on New York. He receives a crippling back injury and is close to despair when he is recruited as an analyst for the CIA but also meets Cathy as the undergrad doctor who promises to go to dinner with him if he dedicates himself to his physical recovery. If only Keira had won the role of Catwoman in ‘The Dark Knight Rises’, poor old Bruce Wayne wouldn’t have had to get punched in the back and thrown down into a grotty hole to recover from his spinal fracture. Indeed, pretty sure if she went around the NHS wards and made similar propositions we might see a remarkable recovery rate in patients ….

“Keira Knightley says she’ll go on a date with you if you get better.”
“…what?”
“Yeah, she said she wanted to give sick people something to live for.”
“Are you fucking shitting me?! Quick, cancel all my visits – give me that fucking water {stands} I’m better! {vomits} Get off me! I’ll be fine!”

The film has almost certainly been inspired by the reboot to the Bond franchise, and there are possibly a few nods in its direction, with an inaugural fight in a toilet and a few camera shots of glass elevators similar to the ones in both ‘Casino Royale’ (06) and ‘Skyfall’ (12) as well as a set up not too dissimilar to the one in Skyfall’s Shanghai skyscraper scene, not to mention putting the character name in the title of course. Kenneth Branagh directs and stars as the Russian bad guy, with the trailer making his accent sound a little ropey (the trailer and marketing for the film was not great in general) but its actually pretty good, and Keira sports a new American one (she has several – she is very talented), the two of them, Pine, and Kevin Costner as Ryan’s CIA contact all sell the film well with their combined talents and, together with tight direction, it all comes together nicely as a good, fun, spy thriller. It amply supplies the base for a new franchise and although it’s not quite in the same league as ‘Casino Royale’, there are plenty of good things to build on for the next one …

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