It’s been over a decade that we saw a Jack Ryan film. Chris Pine now fills the shoes that’s been vacated by Alec Baldwin, Harrison Ford, and Ben Affleck in the fifth feature of the long-dormant franchise. The major difference is, this is the first time that the film’s plot isn’t based on a specific novel by Tom Clancy, so in a way it’s a reboot. Before the title shows up, in roughly 20 min of so, we’re treated to an origin story of our hero. Instead of being set on the Cold War era, Ryan’s journey began post 9/11 as seeing the terrorist attack on the Twin Towers inspired him to join the army. He survived a chopper attack and had to undergo an extensive physical therapy for nearly two years, all the while a CIA agent Thomas Harper has been secretly monitoring his progress. As soon as deems Ryan is ready for action, Harper recruits him and send him back to college to finish his PhD in economics.
A decade later, Ryan working in Wall Street monitoring suspicious activity that might post terrorist threat. Soon he discovers that a stealthy Russian investment worth billions that could damage the US stock market down to the level of the great depression. The villain in question is a Soviet Army veteran Viktor Cheverin who’s none too happy about the US’ intervention of the Soviet’s invasion in Afghanistan. Posing as a broker on a mission to audit Cheverin’s account, Ryan is off to Moscow.
The first fight sequence between Ryan and a Ugandan hired-assassin twice his size (you might’ve seen him in the trailer) packs a punch. Ryan somehow manages to outmaneuver a trained killer despite relatively limited training. After all, he’s more of an analyst than a Bourne-type killing machine, more brain than brawn but it certainly worked in his favor. Ryan’s ‘regular guy’ appeal and his humanity is what separates our protagonist from the typical action hero. After he kills someone, Ryan is in a state of shock. He doesn’t take killing lightly as if it’s ‘just a job’ like Bond would say. He’s haunted by the experience and that dread is written all over his face.
The action is not something you’ve never seen before. In fact, a lot of what happens in this film feel familiar, there’s nothing groundbreaking by any means. The most thrilling sequence involving Ryan breaking into the baddie’s office plays out like a Mission Impossible sequence, I expect the theme song to come on as I’m watching it! Even the story is somewhat predictable and not as suspenseful as one would expect, yet it’s got enough going for it to keep me tuning in. Chris Pine makes for a pretty good Jack Ryan in that he’s easy to root for in the same vein of his predecessor Harrison Ford. What he lacks in range he more than makes up in screen presence and likability. Kevin Costner has the effortless gravitas as his CIA mentor, apparently he was offered the role of Jack Ryan for The Hunt for Red October but he turned it down. I think he would’ve been excellent in the role and I must say he still looks fit enough to kick ass if need be. Which made me wish they had given him a bit more dynamic stuff to do in this movie.
The weakest link here is Keira Knightly, who despite pulling off a decent American accent as Ryan’s girlfriend seems horribly miscast. She just isn’t believable in the role of a nurse who’s constantly worried her boyfriend is having an affair. Plus there’s zero chemistry between her and Pine. There is a pretty tense scene between her and Kenneth Branagh as Cheverin at the dinner table, and I have to say she has way more chemistry with him than with Pine. That brings me to Sir Branagh, whose direction here was the main reason I was somewhat anticipating this movie. Well, I can’t say that he acquit himself as well as a director here, compared to his previous work. I’m not too fond of his camera work here with the extensive use of unnecessary close-ups, though I’m glad he’s not a fan of the shaky cam technique. I do think he makes for a pretty compelling baddie. His scenery-chewing performance as Cheverin, complete with an over-the-top Russian accent, is quite a hoot. There’s a hint of chilling unpredictability when he stares at you with his devilish smirk, and Branagh gives himself a grand entrance if you will, the first time he comes on screen.
Overall I enjoyed this one despite many of its flaws. I think the key here is that I buy Pine as Jack Ryan, unlike Ben Affleck who lacks the confidence and charisma in the role. Though Pine plays Ryan as being unsure of his ability, he certainly has that inherent swagger. It’s also fun seeing Costner back in the action genre. It gets no point for originality however, nor does it inject as much life to the long-dormant franchise the way J.J. Abrams did with the Star Trek reboot. The score by one of my favorite composers Patrick Doyle also didn’t wow me as his last work in Branagh’s film THOR, which remains one of my fave soundtrack of recent memory. I think the script could’ve been a lot stronger to make this a memorable spy thriller. As it stands now, it’s just good enough to make me want to see what’s next.
What do you think of the latest Jack Ryan movie?