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This image released by Paramount Pictures shows Chris Pine, left, and Kevin Costner in "Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit," an action thriller about a covert CIA analyst who uncovers a Russian plot to crash the U.S. economy with a terrorist attack. (AP Photo/Paramount Pictures, Larry Horricks)
Movie review: Tom Clancy’s popular CIA hero revived in formulaic thriller
Review » Tom Clancy’s popular CIA hero is revived in this trite, average thriller.
First Published Jan 17 2014 09:44 am • Last Updated Jan 16 2014 06:22 pm

In the 21st century, you would think terrorists would turn to more creative assaults than just using the well-worn ticking time bomb. But the spy thriller "Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit" relies on many tried-and-true formulas — such as reviving the enigmatic Russian villain who wants to blow up New York City.

Based on the late author Tom Clancy’s literary CIA hero but not on any of the Ryan books, this new adventure, starring Chris Pine ("Star Trek") as cinema’s fourth Jack Ryan, lacks the intelligence and creative spark of other better Ryan films, particularly "The Hunt for Red October." Instead, it serves up one trite scene after another, as if it were picking each moment from a catalog of spy-movie conventions.

At a glance


‘Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit’

Chris Pine is good as Tom Clancy’s CIA analyst, but they put him in a plot as stale as the Cold War.

Where » Theaters everywhere.

When » Opens Friday, Jan. 17.

Rating » PG-13 for sequences of violence and intense action, and brief strong language

Running time » 105 minutes.

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Having exhausted dark-skinned Middle Eastern zealots and rogue North Korean soldiers as Hollywood terrorists, this time director/actor Kenneth Branagh and writers Adam Cozad and David Koepp opt to reignite the Cold War by concocting a plot involving a Russian businessman who wants to put America’s economy into a tailspin.

The businessman, Viktor Cherevin (played by Branagh), plans to mess with the stock market while at the same time triggering a terrorist bombing attack in America to create a global crisis that would in turn strengthen Russia’s economy.

Ryan is a junior CIA analyst who is called into field operations and sent to Moscow to uncover Viktor’s plans. But on arrival, he is attacked by an assassin, later has his wife (Keira Knightley) kidnapped by Russians and still has to deal with a nasty bout of jet lag.

Pine proves to be a vibrant and effective action hero as the newly reinvented Ryan (who follows Alec Baldwin, Harrison Ford and Ben Affleck in the role), and Kevin Costner is good as his fatherly CIA boss. Branagh may rely on a host of movie villain stereotypes to create Viktor, but at least he weaves them into something stylish with his impressive seasoned acting.

The movie’s weakness is relying on too many formulaic moments, like the hack-into-the-computer-database scene or the ticking-time-bomb climax. In an era when the action in thrillers is more visceral and gritty, as in the superior Jason Bourne movies, the big-screen mayhem in this retooling of the famed character feels stale.

In an effort to make Jack Ryan more relevant in a post-9/11 world, the makers of "Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit" instead made him seem old and traditional.


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