In an era full of sequels, threequels, prequels, and reboots, we finally have one that was done right.
The U.S. doesn’t have a James Bond. But if it did, it would probably be Jack Ryan. The Tom Clancy character has been the subject of numerous action films across three different actors (Alec Baldwin, Harrison Ford, and Ben Affleck), and now Chris Pine has been added to the mix as the fourth actor to portray the CIA analyst-turned-operative.
But this isn’t just a regurgitation of a familiar plot. It’s a reboot, so forget about the five previous films. Instead of getting thrown into the hunt for Sean Connery, we get to see Jack Ryan’s beginnings, from a college kid horrified watching the TV reports of 9/11 to a courageous but injured Marine struggling through physical therapy. Soon after, however, along with the appearance of the always-brilliant Kevin Costner, things start heating up.
Jack gets recruited by the CIA as a data analyst. In name he works on Wall Street, but his real job is watching the numbers, hopefully in order to prevent another terrorist attack. So when Gilderoy Lockhear–err, I mean, Viktor Cherevin, suspiciously moves trillions of dollars after Russia loses a key vote in the United Nations, Jack notices. So, of course, they send him to Moscow, where he finds out that they plan to crash the American economy, although the details of how they plan to do that is a bit nebulous. It’s a lot of financial mumbo-jumbo, but there’s enough guns, fights, and awesome spy plans that we really don’t care. And the film is packed full with non-stop action, everything from close up fights to shootouts to intricate spy plans, this movie has them all. With Chris Pine’s portrayal of Jack Ryan, not to mention the impressive chemistry between him and Kiera Knightley or the incredible villainous performance of Kenneth Branagh.
But in the interest of being fair, the film is deeper than guns and fistfights. A fairly significant portion of the film focuses on Jack’s relationship with his physical therapist-turned-girlfriend Cathy. Jack isn’t allowed to tell his girlfriend about his real job unless he marries her, and Cathy isn’t yet willing to marry Jack, which makes their relationship extremely complicated. She knows he’s keeping a secret, and he tries desperately to hold onto her without disobeying his orders, which proves extremely difficult. But we can see the deep care that he has for her and the commitment that he has to the relationship when he tells her on the phone, after being forced to lie about the so-called “business trip” in Moscow, “Please don’t give up on me.” Jack Ryan isn’t just courageous or heroic. Like a good marine, he’s always faithful, and that includes the love of his life. And men, if you want to know just how committed you ought to be to the woman of your affections, just try to emulate Jack chasing a car down with a crowbar and you’ll be pretty close.
So all in all, this film shows a nice departure from the anti-hero action movies that sometimes dominate the box office. Instead of Die Hard, which glamorizes bloodshed, or James Bond, which boasts a license to kill (or is it licence? I can never keep British spellings straight), Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit’s worldview can be really be summed up with the Marine motto: Semper fidelis. Always faithful. And so Jack is, as we also should be.
Sexuality: Jack and Cathy live together. They’re shown once in bed together.
Language: Four or five strong profanities. God or Christ’s name abused a combined dozen times or so.