Film Review: Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit

Reviewed by Sam Robinson

Rated M. Starring Chris Pine, Kevin Costner, Keira Knightley. Directed by Kenneth Branagh.

[Stars: 4/5]

Jack Ryan. Number cruncher. US Marine. CIA operative. Dude with two first names.

He’s a character that has been around the traps for some time. Created by author Tom Clancy, Jack has hit the big screen in a number of film adaptations already – Patriot Games, Clear and Present Danger to name a few. Now director Branagh has been given the reins of rebooting the franchise, this time with Captain Kirk, sorry, Chris Pine in the title role.

Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit explains the origins of the character (at least, this re-imagining) without dwelling too much on the backstory. Ryan was a US Marine badly injured by a helicopter crash, causing him to go into long-term rehabilitation and settle for an office job as an analyst on Wall Street. Or so it seems.

One day Ryan notices some odd accounts on his computer (it looked to me like something to CTRL+ALT+DEL) but it prompts him to head to Moscow on a mission. A mission to stop ‘the second depression’ and a terrorist attack on US soil. No pressure, Jack. Add Ryan’s unknowing girlfriend Cathy (Knightley) into Moscow and you’ve got a plot on the boil!

There’s something noticeably different about Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit to other action flicks, and it’s found in the character of Ryan himself, or at least this version of him. He is vulnerable. He chooses not to fire his gun. He is shaken up after he kills his first bad guy, despite being out of self defence. I don’t know of any other action film where the hero needs to run to meet with a mentor just to calm down. Ryan needs to be reminded: ‘You’re a marine. Remember your craft’. He hasn’t got it all together yet.

But this is super refreshing. Unlike other films where one action hero manages to take out a whole army with one gun, here Ryan uses smarts to win the battle. There are times when you almost find yourself saying ‘Just take out the bad guy!’ but that would be too easy.

Ryan is calculated, a different kind of hero. It is surprising however, how quickly he is sent on such a high-risk mission without a whole lot of retraining. I mean, you can’t learn spy tactics from Excel spreadsheets… Or can you?

Placed in a situation of great risk, Ryan is called to be the hero – ready or not. He has no choice but to rise to the challenge.

For Jesus, our saviour and redeemer, he did the Father’s will by taking on the mission to go to the cross to die for our sin. His mission was certain. Jesus came to this earth as an unlikely hero, one who served others and gave up his heavenly home – and eventually, his very life – to feel and share in the vulnerability of humanity. Like Ryan, Jesus too was completely committed to the mission. He wasn’t simply following orders, but willingly served because he knew this was the only way to save others from a certain death. Mark 10:45 explains this so well:

For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life—a ransom for many.

You’ve got to admire Jack Ryan for his heroic qualities and willingness to put his life on the line, but Jesus is the ultimate hero. He wasn’t just willing, but actually did put his life on the line, so that those who trust in him might be saved, and live forever.

Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit is a smart action film that strings out tension but often resolves it a little too quickly. I’m giving it four out of five stars.

Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit is screening now in cinemas everywhere.

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