Viewed – 08 June 2014 Pay-per-view
I never saw the previous, highly regarded Jack Ryan movies; the Alec Baldwin starring The Hunt For Red October, the Harrison Ford vehicles Clear & Present Danger etc. Something about their overly serious approach to CIA espionage action always had me leaning more towards Mission Impossible or the James Bond franchise for my escapism. Now in the wake of his credible turns in the recent Star Trek reboots, pretty-boy actor Chris Pine steps into the shoes of a more rookie Ryan, in this origin tale to Tom Clancy’s famed character.
I’ll admit the casting of the likeable Pine drew my attention and well, I can be a sucker for a good action thriller. Here we also get Kenneth Branagh, another actor I have admired, albiet in a typical English-thesp cast as the bad guy turn, as a Russian terrorist attempting to over throw the U.S. economy. I was hoping Hollywood had grown out of such casting by now. He is also the director so maybe he only has himself to blame for that. Pine however has Keira Knightley as his girlfriend who gets caught up in proceedings when she follows him to Russia fearing his secretive goings-on are hiding an affair. This is fairly formulaic stuff, and isn’t helped by a chemistry-free pairing of Pine & Knightley, whose relationship is given no weight due to the fact their casual hook-up during a prologue hospitalization is glossed over. Costner also offers little more than his presence and a mentor vibe (which seems to be his thing these days, see: Man of Steel). Thankfully Branagh’s villain is fairly decent and charismatic. The biggest problem though is that we’re presented yet again with a thriller more interested in fancy rapid-fire editing, it’s pounding score and a great deal of espionage mumbo-jumbo than conveying a plot that is easy to follow or characters and situations we can care about. Doesn’t help either that what action there is, is fairly limply handled and over before you can get into any of it.
For Chris Pine fans, its worth seeing, and I expect we’ll see a more polished sequel down the line. Yet I’ll hazard a guess for Ryan enthusiasts … you’re probably better off with the books. Everyone else, this is simply a glossy but otherwise by-the-numbers thriller – and not a particularly surprising one at that.
Verdict: 2 /5