If a movie franchise is going to be rebooted, Chris Pine seems like just the man to do it.
Pine, perfect as the new Captain Kirk in Star Trek’s revival, has now been handed the role of Tom Clancy’s CIA master analyst Jack Ryan.
It’s not quite as good a fit, but Pine performs well enough to make “Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit” an enjoyable thrill ride.
Pine is the fourth Jack Ryan, following Alec Baldwin, Harrison Ford and Ben Affleck, and “Shadow Recruit” is the fifth Ryan film, the first since Affleck’s 2002 “The Sum of All Fears.”
It’s also the first Ryan film that isn’t actually based on a Clancy book, and it’s probably the least complicated and intricate of the bunch.
That’s not to say that “Shadow Recruit” is simple-minded; it’s merely streamlined and moves at an exceptionally brisk pace.
Ryan is still a former Marine, injured in a helicopter crash, who ends up joining the CIA as an analyst. Instead of being set in the Cold War of the ‘80s, though, this version of Ryan has been colored by the 9/11 tragedy and is undercover on modern day Wall Street, looking for terrorist transactions.
Ryan finds a curious money trail that leads him to Moscow, where the pencil-pushing analyst finds himself in peril, and over his head.
Directed by Kenneth Branagh, “Shadow Recruit” mostly follows a straightforward spy template, but it is crisply done.
Kevin Costner was a solid choice as William Harper, Ryan’s smooth and tough CIA handler. Interestingly, Costner was offered the original Ryan role in “Hunt for Red October,” but turned it down to make “Dances with Wolves.”
Keira Knightley tries out a distracting American accent as Ryan’s suspicious girlfriend, while Branagh himself plays the bad guy, evil Soviet banker Viktor Cherevin.
Cherevin has a plot to bring America to its knees, tying a terrorist attack in with an economic meltdown, and only the quick-thinking of a neophyte CIA operative can possibly stop him.
Though a lot of the film’s action takes place on computer screens and flash drives, “Shadow Recruit” manages to build plenty of tension and suspense. Pine is brash and energetic, though showing considerably less swagger than James T. Kirk.
His Jack Ryan isn’t James Bond or Jason Bourne, but he’s not supposed to be. “Shadow Recruit” shows enough promise to be worth another sequel or two.
Rental Recommendation: Ben Affleck’s one turn as Jack Ryan is unfairly overlooked. “Sum of All Fears” was actually pretty good. Grade: B.
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"Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit"
Starring: Chris Pine, Kevin Costner, Keira Knightley
Rated: PG-13 (for sequences of violence and intense action, and brief strong language)
Running time: 105 minutes