Having established himself as modern cinema’s most acclaimed Shakespearean actor – a sort of Olivier with moles – Kenneth Branagh has carried on with his unexpected career swerve as director in the lucrative but trashy milieu of the CGI action flick.
This ‘CIA saves the world’ adventure Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit, has Russia as the enemy, like in the good old days when John Le Carré was writing such stories, only with brains.
Jack (Chris Pine), after surviving a helicopter crash in Afghanistan when he was serving as a dedicated young marine in 2003, is sent to Moscow ten years later, undercover, to… I’m not exactly sure what the mission is, for it is very byzantine, but it involves breaking into the office of Victor Cherevin (Branagh), a conspiring Ruskie financier and high-up Kremlin kneecapper, in order to steal from his computer the details of files that will, after a long-planned terrorist attack on New York, send global stock exchanges into Armageddon.
It’s okay, and, to be honest, I’m a wee bit embarrassed to admit that I enjoyed it after having to take serious note of all the heavyweight contenders in the awards-giving season.
There is no penny-pinching when it comes to the chases etc. Moscow looks nice at night; Kevin Costner, getting jowly, earns a stack of money for rope as Jack’s phlegmatic boss; and Keira ‘the Fang’ Knightley is provided with heaps of close-ups to do her face-pulling thing.
It is a clinically written-by-numbers movie, with an extended climax that wears out a friendship as Jack survives one near-death crisis after another.
What I, and probably a lot of other punters, still want to know is: how does anybody walk past another person, make the briefest contact with them – I mean less than half a second – and yet manage to continue on with that person’s wallet, containing everything!
It’s been happening forever and it works fine in a comedy, but in a contemporary spy thriller of serious intent it looks preposterous.
Give it a miss unless you’re desperate.
~ John Campbell