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"Jack Ryan: Shadow Recuit" is just alright

The Jan. 17 release of "Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit" marks the fifth in a succession of movies based on the work of author Tom Clancy. It continues with the high- stakes drama of previous films in the series and in the political action thriller genre generally to create 105 minutes of worthwhile entertainment. Chris Pine plays the title character in a film
that director Kenneth Branagh designed to place the Jack Ryan character in an updated time and place. Unlike the Jack Ryan of earlier works, this one operates in the post-9/11 world where global terrorism is a key concern. The movie works as a standard action film, but it is limited by a lack of character development.

Pine competently plays the role of a CIA agent who is undercover as a Wall Street employee. He was inspired to join the agency by seeing the Twin Towers of New York fall 10 years earlier in the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. He is a talented analyst, and his job in the financial industry is to check for unusual patterns of financial transactions that could indicate the work of terrorist organizations. He discovers financial manipulations on a huge scale and traces them to a Russian named Viktor Cheverin. 

Cheverin's plan is to ruin the United States by striking a blow to its economy and causing the American dollar to sink, and Ryan sets out to unravel and foil the plan. 

The strength in the movie is Branagh's choice to highlight issues that are important to the world citizens of today. In an era of huge banks, high-speed stock trading and volatile economies, economic terrorism is a major concern. While films set in earlier periods of history can also be interesting, this film taps into the fears of today and is sure to be thrilling to modern audiences. Taking the Jack Ryan character out of his old settings and casting him in a way that the majority of current moviegoers, including young people, can relate to proved to be an excellent decision. 

On the other hand, at a deeper level the film does not have anything to truly make it memorable for audiences. A criticism of "Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit" is that it is predictable. 

As a lifelong action film fan, I felt a strong familiarity with the story arc even from the beginning scenes. The movie is full of many of the typical elements of this genre, including car chases, stolen spy secrets and an abduction. A romantic subplot develops regarding Ryan and his fiancee, Cathy, as she starts to think he is having an affair. This element adds some human depth to a movie that otherwise feels mechanical. Unfortunately, as the main character, Pine does not show
any true complexity or character development and therefore makes Jack Ryan somewhat bland. None of the other characters compensate for this weakness.

As noted, putting Jack Ryan into the anti-terrorism era was an innovative concept. A more talented or experienced actor might have found a way to make Jack Ryan capture the hearts of moviegoers. But in this case, with Pine as a rather uninteresting Ryan, audiences are unlikely to find much to remember about this film. 

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