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‘Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit:’ Everyone Tested, Dad Approved

Do you have a dad? Does he enjoy a biscuit with his coffee and the newspaper in the morning? Does he retrieve that newspaper from the front porch while wearing tube socks and crocs? Then he might like Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit…if he can find his reading glasses and doesn’t mind third tier action movies that begin with footage of 9/11.

Jack Ryan is a character based on Tom Clancy novels. Oh yeah! If your dad likes Tom Clancy novels, that’s another requirement for liking this movie, too. Jack Ryan has been played by actors like Harrison Ford, Alec Baldwin, and Ben Affleck, and all three have become way more crotchety in recent years, so I don’t know why Chris Pine agreed to do this, but he spends about half the movie lost in a conflicted stare, one that definitely means, “I’m here and they’re filming but I have to figure out a way to get out of this.” Ryan, in this iteration, is a super smart guy who doesn’t finish school because he becomes a marine because…9/11. After a routine helicopter flight full of mediocre marine banter goes horribly wrong, Ryan learns to walk again and fall in love with the help of Keira Knightley, whose character’s name is Cathy, a choice made, I can only assume, to make your dad feel like maybe she crochets mittens and sells them at the farmers’ market rather than stands with her arms crossed, young, hot, and unattainable.

JACK RYAN: SHADOW RECRUIT

The really bonkers thing is that this movie is directed by Kenneth Branagh, who is usually in britches spouting Shakespeare or playing a character named Gilderoy Lockhart. This is the man Branagh chose (yes, himself) to play Viktor Cherevin, a Russian bad guy who would probably kill someone if they suggested he wear tights and very likely knows few to zero sonnets. The Russian accent is so bad, the threats he makes are laughable, and his “intense, ‘I’m gonna kill you’ villain glares” fall closer to “frustrated, ‘Why won’t you take me to Chuck E. Cheese’s’ child pouts.” All this makes Cherevin a perfectly adequate, Dad-speed villain.

Speaking of dads, Kevin Costner stars in Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit (a title, by the way, that begs the question, “Is this a Cartoon Network show from 1999?”) as a sharpshooting CIA operative who recruits Jack Ryan for his super secret schemes. Kevin Costner looks so uncomfortable with a gun and a pea coat, and he sighs his way through his ridiculous lines (some that he must utter while standing, full of cliché, in an empty, darkened room to a startled Jack Ryan) like a dad who’s just had it and wants to watch the game but has to accompany your mom to the annoying neighbor’s barbecue. The whole movie, he looks like if he could just figure out the Russian terrorist attack, he could go home and have a catch with his son…….in Iowa………on his baseball field…….….that he was told to built…………….Field of Dreams.

JACK RYAN: SHADOW RECRUIT

IF YOU READ BELOW THIS POINT, THERE WILL BE A “SPOILER.” I put “spoiler” in quotation marks because, well, let’s just say the age-old philosophical question, “If no one cares about a tree in the woods, does it matter if it’s spoiled?” applies here.

Perhaps the most telltale sign of the dad-ness of this movie is that when the inevitable bomb is inevitably discovered by Jack Ryan in an inevitably hard-to-reach place for other people (due in large part to bad cell reception, such a dad sort of problem), the evil bomb-setter-offer starts the countdown clock. But this countdown to doom doesn’t give Ryan thirty seconds nor even sixty seconds to defuse this bomb. Ryan is afforded a leisurely, Dad-approved time of FIVE WHOLE MINUTES to figure it out. Five minutes! I’m surprised it took him the five minutes. He could have made a sandwich for four minutes and forty-five seconds and then gotten to business, but I think that would have just been too exciting.

But what are dad action movies for, if not making sure that the action doesn’t give your dad a heart attack? Good job, Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit. You saved the dad.

Grade: C

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