Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit (2014)

Rating: C

Dir: Kenneth Branagh
Star: Chris Pine. Keira Knightley, Kenneth Branagh, Kevin Costner

Remember when Branagh was the luvvy darling of British cinema, popping out Shakespearean adaptations like The Asylum does movies about killer sealife? The last two films he directed were Thor, the very definition of a dumb comic-book movie, and this, whose picture can be found in the dictionary beside “rote espionage film.” [It’s a big dictionary…] After 9/11, Jack Ryan (Pine) enlists, but is invalided out after a helicopter crash, though rehab does bring him his girlfiend, therapist Cathy Muller (Knightley). What she doesn’t know is, Jack works for CIA as a covert analyst on Wall Street, looking for terrorist money. When he finds a series of ghost accounts for Russian tycoon Viktor Cherevin (Branagh, he is sent to Moscow to investigate. There’s an assassination attempt almost on arrival and Ryan discovers a plot to trigger a new Great Depression, by dumping trillions of dollars, after a terrorist attack staged by Cherevin. Oh, and just to make things trickier, Cathy shows up in Moscow as a surprise for Jack.

I miss the old evil empire, when terrorists did more then pre-schedule foreign exchange transactions. Ok, that’s a bit harsh – there is also a bomb involved here, but if you compare it to the last Ryan outing, The Sum of All Fears, where Pittsburgh got nuked, it feels pretty insignificant. [At one point. Ryan’s handler (Costner) says “Nobody blows up Pennsylvania,” a reference to the previous movie, and this one being a reboot for the hero] There are some sequences of decent suspense, but Pine is pretty colourless compared to his predecessors (Alec Baldwin, Harrison Ford and Ben Affleck), and Knightley’s American access is more distracting than anything. Branagh, as actor, seems to be having most fun with the role, though between him and Knightley, it seems more like an exercise in employing Brits who can do accents. While it’s entertaining enough to pass muster as undemanding entertainment, this incarnation of Ryan seems less an amalgam of Jason Bourne, Ethan Hawke and James Bond, more a pale imitation of all three.