Live Without Regrets

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Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit

Director: Kenneth Branagh

Starring: Chris Pine, Keira Knightley, Kenneth Branagh, Kevin, Costner

Royal Shakespeare actor turned director Kenneth Branagh teams up with the darling of the reboot franchises, American actor Chris Pine last seen in JJ. Abrams’s Star Trek: Into Darkness to direct and star in Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit, a prequel to such films as Patriot Games (1992), Clear and Present Danger (1994) and The Sum of all Fears (2002). Grounding the action back in London where Ryan is studying at the London School of Economics and witnesses 9/11 on British TV, he is soon thrust into mortal combat in Afghanistan in 2003.

After suffering a spinal injury from his tour in Afghanistan, Ryan is back in the States at the Walter Reed Medical Centre where he meets Dr Cathy Muller, played by Keira Knightley, initially an odd casting choice but as the film progresses it is really the chemistry between Knightley and Branagh that sizzle on screen particularly in the witty dialogue in the Moscow restaurant scene discussing living without regrets, which eclipses any plausibility of her character pairing with Pine’s energetic American spy Ryan. Knightley for once has shed her period drama image after such turns in the beautiful yet flawed Anna Karenina and the brilliant Atonement who elevates Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit into a better movie even though her mid-Atlantic accent remains indistinguishable.

Branagh last seen in My Week With Marilyn and who also directed Thor, casts himself as cruel Russian oligarch Viktor Cheverin who has dodgy accounts hiding a range of funds waiting to destabilize the US economy from his swish uber-cool Moscow skyscraper activating a couple of sleeper Russian agents in the American Mid-West.

sorry_wrong_number_ver2The onscreen tension between Branagh, Pine and Knightley is hinted at earlier through clips of the 1948 thriller Sorry Wrong Number starring Barbara Stanwyck and Burt Lancaster which is about a woman who overhears a murder plot on the phone only to realize she is the intended victim.

Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit is packed with some great action sequences both in Moscow and New York while the storyline is fairly formulaic and in no league to the 007 or Bourne Identity franchises, it is still an enjoyable slightly suave thriller, but entertaining nevertheless. Branagh is better at directing with more grandiose films like the original Thor film and naturally his earlier films with Emma Thompson were still the best including Dead Again and King Henry V.

Kevin Costner helps the film as veteran CIA agent Harper who plays mentor to the young spy. Chris Pine makes the best of his version of Ryan with his startling blue eyes, but lacks the grit and maturity that Harrison Ford brought to the character in the nineties films Patriot Games and Clear and Present Danger. Shadow Recruit is recommended viewing for a watchable spy thriller which does not dazzle, but just manages to engage the audience’s attention especially with the combined acting calibre of Branagh and Knightley.

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