Tuesday, 11 February 2014

Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit - A Review (and a little rant about 12A ratings)

Well, went to the cinema to see Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit last night and, um, yes, how do I put this - that was two hours I'll never get back. Apart from bringing Jack Ryan kicking and screaming, or was that the audience that was screaming, into the 21st Century, the whole film came off rather pompous, melodramatic and, ironically, out of time. Tom Clancy must be turning in his grave.

So where do I begin to explain why I feel the way I do? Well, I think it really is at the beginning, where we are given a nice run down of Jack's background right before the titles. Never before have I considered Jack Ryan a Marty Stu (i.e. Mr Perfect), but after the heroic volunteering for the marines after 9/11, and fighting his way back from near death (after having dragged both his comrades out of a burning helicopter while he is suffering from a broken back), and, of course, meeting the girl of his dreams who helps him rehabilitate - I was already feeling slightly nauseous.

THEN we leap forward 10 years, Jack is an analyst for a Wall Street bank and is working secretly for 'dun dun dun' the CIA (again, this feels rather dated as far as shadowy 'can't tell the girlfriend what I do' organisations go, but this might just be my jaded opinion). Jack notices something hinky with some Russian accounts. 'Ok', I think, so we're into economic espionage, something new for the 21st Century. However, then we meet the 'bad guy', and boy is he bad! I usually like watching Ken Branagh, but when we meet his character, Viktor Cherevin, he is being given an injection by a male nurse, who can't get the injection right and so Viktor beats the guy up. This was way over the top, underlining in neon that we've met our villain of the piece and just made me cringe in embarrassment for whoever had written this character. He had the depth of a small puddle!

Our hero was not much better - Mr Perfect, after being an analyst for 10 years, suddenly finds himself in the field as a spy. Ten years since he was a marine, ten years after a back injury where he had to learn to walk again, and Mr Perfect doesn't put a foot wrong. Jack's happily sneaking into buildings (and typing complete nonsense into laptops, but, hey, it's a spy thriller, I was willing to let that bit go), chasing after fleeing trucks with his girlfriend in them and hand to hand fighting huge great guys and DROWNING them in the bath tub.

Now this is where I have my little rant about 12A ratings - 12A means that anyone 12 and over can go see this film unaccompanied, and anyone younger than 12 can go and see it accompanied. In my opinion, seeing one man drown another is not suitable viewing for a 12 year old, let alone anyone under 12, and Viktor would have given me nightmares at that age as well. The UK really needs to think long and hard about 12A rating - that film should have been a 15.

So anyway, here you have it, a story of Russians wanting to destroy the capitalist US, sleeper agents and daring CIA operatives trying to stop them. Despite the attempt to modernise Jack Ryan, it all felt slightly dated and pretty derivative. There was no proper dramatic tension, the action was improbable and the characters were caricatures. Ultimately, the film was trying to create drama from action, but when the characters were so shallow, frankly, I just didn't care. I loved The Hunt for Red October and Patriot Games, but Shadow Recruit left me slightly bored. I suppose I should have known it was going to be a melodrama when they thought it necessary to add a subtitle to the movie poster.


  1. Sophie - I see that you are signed up for the A to Z Challenge so I'm stopping by to say hello.

    From the Market to the Plate
    Volunteer for the 2014 A to Z Challenge (Stormy Sidekick)


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