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IN SHORT: Jack Ryan rebooted for a new generation. Military threats have become Economic threats and away we go! And we should keep going. [Rated PG-13 for sequences of violence and intense action, and brief strong language. 105 minutes]
Resetting Ryan's Universe from one centered on the possibility nuclear Armageddon to one with an economic disaster sitting on the bull's-eye requires a bit of work. The end product is, seemingly, three different movies stapled on to each other.
Movie One: The Jack Ryan (Chris Pine) we meet in Shadow Recruit is a student at the London School of Economics, on the eleventh day of a certain September. Yep, same one. Ryan joins the Marines (repeat: Marines). Ryan is eventually deployed to Afghanistan -- though it is clear that he has combat time under his belt -- and stuff happens. That stuff brings him into the world of physical therapist, soon to be doctor, Cathy Muller (Keira Knightley), whose work with the injured Ryan so closely resembles the P.T. yours Cranky went through twenty-five years ago that we were impressed. Film makers usually get it wrong. Muller also turns down the pass Ryan will make, though some time down the line the pairing will happen. [Our therapist is married to a prominent television film critic. Go figure <g>]
During the rehab period, reports Ryan had filed during his military service bring Central Intelligence Agency agent William Harper (Kevin Costner) to Ryan's door. They already know of Ryan's military prowess and his economics work and, fearing a possible economic attack -- recruit him to keep an eye on Wall Street. What Ryan notices, in his Wall Street guise is enough to get him a trip to Moscow, where some Russian financial organization has been trading the US Dollar suspiciously.
Movie Two: A rather talky piece in which Ryan meets Viktor Cheverin (Kenneth Branagh) who is, almost, his exact Russian duplicate, except for an extra twenty-five years of age and, maybe, the military stuff. The bigger surprise is that Cheverin knows what Ryan doesn't; that his now fiancee Doctor Muller has popped over to Moscow, to get a head start on a planned rendezvous in Paris. Dinner is offered -- and, this being a business trip, cannot be declined. Of course, Ryan's purpose in Moscow is to break into the computer files of Cheverin's company. Muller, unaware of her beau's real job in the CIA, has made the detour because she suspects he has a girlfriend on the side and that the Moscow trip isn't all business. By the time dinner has finished, so will a suspense-laden second act.
Oh, if you are thinking "Wait. We thought the doctor to be turned down the pass Ryan made at her after rehab," you're in league with Cranky. We blinked and missed it, too. The problem is one of construction. That surprises us because director Branagh has got the chops and the clout to fix the mess that screenwriters Adam Cozad and David Koepp have provided to him. Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit is saddled with so many flashbacks that we had just about thrown in the towel halfway through the Moscow sequence.
If we've managed to get everything written down in its proper chronology, there is only one more subplot to mention. This one adds characters in Dearborn, Michigan who will connect events in Moscow with a climactic bit of story in New York City.
Yep, the actionflick. Movie Three. It is one thing to get lost in a film. It is another to be hanging on for dear life, exhausted from the effort it takes to keep track of everything playing out on the big screen.
On average, a first run movie ticket will run you Ten Bucks. Were Cranky able to set his own price to Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit, he would have paid . . .
There's a little voice inside of Cranky's head that "hears" exactly what the pitch meeting for this movie must have sounded like: "We're going to honor Tom Clancy's work and the history of the character. We're going to bring the US versus Russia conflict into the reality of the 21st century. We're going to make the world remember that Jack Ryan kicks serious ass . . ."
Swing and a miss.
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