Monday, January 20, 2014

Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit – Film Review

I've looked forward to this movie for a while, ever since I first saw the trailers for it. For a long time I had been dying to watch a movie like The Bourne series again, and having also read the Bourne book (and mildly disappointed because the book was a different experience to the film) the need for some clever paced spy-espionage-international-action film had never been stronger.

As usual, being the curious one, I googled what people were saying about this movie – and a fair amount of my criticism (positive and negative) will be informed by what I read then. But of course I've seen the movie myself and here are my thoughts on it:

Jack Ryan is a business analyst with a history with the American Marines – who then gets hooked into CIA financial branch, picked up by Kevin Costner's character. Jack discovers suspicious transactions being carried out by a fishy Russian company and sounds the alarm that the Russians are probably on to something to hurt America (because isn't that what all Russians ever do?), not through the predictable violent and political means, but through economically bankrupting the Wall Street and making the dollar drop to a point where it becomes impossible for it to recover. By now you can tell this story will have a lot of depth in it, because by invoking words like financial analyst, economic terrorism, wall street, etc, you'd better be sure about what you're talking about.

And for the first half of the film, the plot line holds convincingly enough.

Phd guy doing covert operations? Where the movie starts to go a little downhill is when Jack Ryan is sent to Moscow to run operations for CIA. Sure, Jack has close associations with the officials of the Russian company that CIA is trying to bring down, so he would be a good choice to send there to meet them in person. In saying that, there is no practical reason as to why Jack, a mere Phd guy – with a history with Marines, yes, but with no covert operational experience – is suddenly given all these responsibility to do all the dirty work.

Short in numbers? Also, there were literally seven CIA agents that you see in the entire movie, only four of them doing anything significant, and only Jack Ryan (a business analyst!) risking his neck hacking into top secret world endangering Russian company's security system. They seemed more like a little gang of miscreants than the Central Intelligence agency. Are they running out of staff or what?

Fight scenes are short and rare, and when they do happen, shaky cameras reign in full glory. So for all we can see and discern, they could be fighting for their lives or they could just be tripping over and falling over flower vases.

Kiera Knightley doesn't look like she belongs in the film. She does well for her part, she is a polished actor and convincing actress. But her character seems only half-there – and her being there does not contribute or does anything to the story. She seems like an after-thought. A token female presence just in case the all-male cast gets too overbearing. I would say a female character should definitely be in, but perhaps either in a completely aloof way or a completely integrated way – not as a character who turns up halfway and is permitted to become part of a top secret scandalous operation run by America's top CIA – again, surely CIA can do better than that.

Far fetched – In this respect this movie falls way behind Bourne series because of the far fetched implications. We aren't in the Cold War anymore. A Russian company thinks of taking down the USA, bombing Wall Street (spoiler alert!); but wait, here comes a Phd financial analyst (who has no idea how to run an espionage operation) to the rescue! outsmarting dumb dumb Russians swimming drunk in their pools of vodka and going bonkers every time they see a beautiful woman – Tell me that doesn't sound far fetched –– if not ridiculous.

Chris Pine – Now on a positive note, Chris Pine as Jack Ryan redeemed the film. He's no Matt Damon. But he is a great cast.

Kevin Costner – well, regarding this guy – I didn't know he's still alive.

To conclude, this is a very good non serious action spy thriller. It has the things that you expect to see in a spy film –– world travel, women, car chases, European accents, ambitious globally connected villain group, a villain with personal issues, a nagging relationship getting in the way and a cool composed spy.

Lock up your brains when you go into the movies though, you won't need it that much––not atleast for the second half of the film. 

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