Tuesday, 28 January 2014

Review: Jack Ryan - Shadow Recruit

World of Blackout Film Review

Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit Poster

Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit
Cert: 12A / 105 mins / Dir. Kenneth Branagh
WoB Rating: 3/7

Wow. I get the impression that Chris Pine landed the role of Jack Ryan after his performance in last year's This Means War, an action/spy caper in which he gets to trade barbs and punches with Tom Hardy. It's not a bad film by any stretch, but its saving grace is the constant comedic flow between the leads. Replace that banter with mumbled CIA gibberish between Captain Kirk and Robin Hood, and you've got the new techno-thriller, Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit.

It's more Mission Impossible than James Bond, but throughout, it lacks the fun, style or wit of either. An opening sequence truncates Jack's early career, from brilliant financial whizz studying in London, to brilliant brave soldier shooting people in Afghanistan and rescuing his comrades from a burning helicopter, to brilliant undercover spy working on Wall Street and tracking terrorists by their financial slip-ups. All of this while routinely lying about his job to his nurse/carer/fiance, Cathy, and that's her own fault really because she won't marry the secretive fibber (CIA rules, apparently. Jack said so).

So is it any good? Not particularly. It's reasonably competent at what it's doing, but that's just not particularly great. Initially crammed with computer idiot-displays which don't exist in the real world, and top-secret organisations with the crappiest security money can buy, the film doesn't take long before it resorts to good old car chases and men punching the shit out of each other. And all the while, director Kenneth Branagh doing his bit to let Hollywood know that North Korea is back off the xenophobia menu, and now it's time to start baiting the Russians again. Go on, Ken! Tell Keira how "I em bed men; listen to voice, da?"

And I'm not even sure how Keira Knightley manages to struggle in a role that demands nothing of her. I actually quite enjoy her work in the right roles, but this isn't one of them. That said, her part of The Girl One is so underwritten that anyone would struggle to perform it. Pine makes the best of a bad job (ie not enough oomph to gain any critical acclaim, but enough to get a sequel). Kevin Costner is Kevin Costner; then again, that's what he was no doubt hired for.

On a technical-grumble level, the constantly moving/sweeping/juddering camera is irritating enough, but there are several shots in the film which are slightly blurred and ghosted. It looks for all the world like the editing team have zoomed and cropped an existing shot, using a section from the middle of the frame somewhere, then upscaled it and hoped no-one would notice. I can't be the only one who did.

The Moral Of The Story: Hey, the next time you're slagging off the global finance industry, just remember: some of them are really working for government spy agencies and trying to save you! Capitalism and covert surveillance are your friends, you idiot, not The Russians!

It's not absolutely awful, but you deserve better, frankly. At least Tom Cruise did this shit with a smirk on his face.

Is the trailer representative of the film?
The trailer tries harder than the film, I'll give it that.

Did I laugh, cry, gasp and sigh when I was supposed to?
Not really.

Does it achieve what it sets out to do?
I suspect it actually does.

Pay at the cinema, Rent on DVD or just wait for it to be on the telly?
DVD. Tops.

Will I think less of you if we disagree about how good/bad this film is?
I will, a bit.

Will I watch it again?
I can't see that eventuality.

Is there a Wilhelm Scream?
Not that I heard, although by act three, it's basically just white-noise and handheld cameras, so there could be.

And if I HAD to put a number on it…

And my question for YOU is…
Have the CIA ever actually recruited anyone fucking stupid enough to compromise their cover by leaving a cinema-ticket stub in their trouser pocket for their girlfriend to find?

• ^^^ That's dry, British humour, and most likely sarcasm or facetiousness.
• Yen's blog contains harsh language and even harsher notions of propriety. Reader discretion is advised.
• This is a personal blog. The views and opinions expressed here represent my own thoughts (at the time of writing) and not those of the people, institutions or organisations that I may or may not be related with unless stated explicitly.

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