Film Review: Jack Ryan Shadow Recruit

Jack Ryan is back, this time going to Moscow to stop a Russian radical from  collapsing the U.S. economy. 2002’s The Sum of All Fears (with Ben Affleck in the main role) was the last time the Jack Ryan character has seen the big screen.  The late Tom Clancy started the successful literary series. Now five films in the film lineup, with Alec Baldwin, Harrison Ford, and Ben Affleck all having a slice of the Jack Ryan pie, the film series has a  history of reaping box office success (despite mixed critical reviews).

Plot: College-aged Jack Ryan (Chris Pine) decides to join the Marines following the 9/11 attacks. the decision to join leaves him skeptical and wanting more. A helicopter crash leaves him injured, retired from the military, and wondering what to do next. In comes mentor Thomas Harper (Kevin Costner). Harper recruits Ryan into the CIA, having him investigate companies on Wall Street suspected of funding terrorist actions. In the standard action move, Ryan discovers a plan by Russian radicals to collapse the U.S. economy via various transactions. Ryan is tasked with taking down the head of the operation Viktor Cherevin (Kenneth Branagh, who also directs) while holding together his complicated relationship with longtime girlfriend Dr. Cathy Muller (Keira Knightley).

Main Point: Everyone loves a good action/spy flick and this film , with it’s standard set of action intense scenes, satisfies that without being to over top.


The Jack Ryan name has been mostly forgotten following a string of successful action films in the past 12 years mostly due to the successful James Bond and Bourne film series. Action packed scenes and witty dialogue keep the viewer’s attention intact during the whole ride of 100 minutes runtime. The starring cast fill their roles well and Branagh, who has previous directed Thor, finds his filmmaking niche. The camerawork is great, shots done well, and the actors know what to do without feeling dull.

Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit is a great, solid film. The film’s MLK weekend opening didn’t attract quite the audience it was targeting (most of audience was over 50 rather than 18-25) it still holds well with it’s near 18 million debut opening. Go forth and watch it if you feel an adventurous itch inside or are tired of seeing the standard weepy rom-com’s and parodies this time of year. B+

“They can fix this crap on Elysium”

Elysium does not go deep into the immigration reform and social status issues that are displayed front and center in the film’s trailer. It doesn’t have to. Upon viewing the film, it provides enough exposure of a message without being too in the face about it.

image by TriStar Pictures via

Elysium works as a sort of but not really follow up to Neill Blomkamp’s feature film directorial debut District 9 (2009). Watching the movie, one can tell that it expands upon some of District 9’s themes of segregation and reform. The movie is set in 2154 when the earth is polluted and full of waste. The city of Los Angeles, where main character Max (Matt Damon) lives, is run down and filled with garbage. Wealthy people live on a space station habitat called Elysium that orbits earth.

Ever since he was a kid Max has always wanted to go to Elysium. They have everything: plentiful food, safety, and medical healing pods that detect and cure any abnormalities in seconds. After a factory accident involving radiation poisoning leaves Max with days to live, he decides to go on a mission to Elysium. Max wants to get to one of Elysium’s medical pods so he can heal himself and continue to live.

Audiences may feel a sense of refreshment when watching the films. It is one of the few action/special effects heavy films this year that has more than just mindless fight sequences and star power to offer. The movie lets people think about a dystopian world that might actually become a reality. Blomkamp said of the theme of the film “No. No. This isn’t science fiction. This is today. This is now.”

Since the film has a few loose ends it did not tie up, it leaves much of its dystopian/sci-fi future themes to the imagination. That shouldn’t scare away viewers. The film holds well in providing a good overview of what director Blomkamp was trying to convey. Matt Damon, Jodie Foster and Sharlto Copley all give solid performances.