Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit

Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit (12A)

A perfectly serviceable thriller with a try-hard star and Bondesque central villain, this latest reboot in the Jack Ryan franchise comes rather too late in the day to be saved by its complement of talent.

Chris Pine takes over from Ben Affleck (who himself replaced Harrison Ford who supplanted Alec Baldwin) as the über patriot who finds the service of his country more important than either injury or cosy domesticity.

And as his mentor, step forward Kevin Costner. This is where the film’s secret weapon arguably becomes its Achilles’ heel. For in casting one of the great heartthrobs of yesteryear director/co-star Kenneth Branagh undermines his youthful lead.

Pine is handsome and effective. But Costner has star presence. And like an interstellar black hole he sucks all the energy from those around him. No-one can compete.

Branagh takes a globetrotting (and time-jumping) approach to the story, in which young Jack is assigned to trace missing billions. The trail leads to Russia and a sinister oligarch with his own plans to bring down the US by striking at the heart of Wall Street.

Hence the 007-friendly references. Branagh plays the bad guy with refreshing dourness; all he needs is a scar and a white cat to finish the look. Yet when Patrick Doyle’s soundtrack isn’t telegraphing his every mean move he emerges as a genuinely frightening man.

In fact there is nothing to actively dislike in this fifth entry in the series. Even Keira Knightley scores as Ryan’s fiancée, somehow inveigled into assisting the CIA in its mission. In a gossamer role she manages to convince.

In a crowded marketplace where audiences have become familiar with hi-gloss, kinetic, mega-budget thrillers like the Bourne series Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit feels lacking. A more modest affair than its fellows, it lacks zip. Plans for a sequel will determine the force of its staying power.

Star rating: ***

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