Up to this point, there have been four Jack Ryan movies. Jack Ryan is a fictional character created by Tom Clancy. He was in the Marines, and was medically retired after a helicopter crash. He married Cathy Mueller (a surgeon), and they have 4 children. He was recruited to the CIA, and taught at the U.S. Naval Academy. In the books, he becomes the Deputy Director of Central Intelligence, and even President. He’s a pretty impressive guy, second only to Clive Cussler’s Dirk Pitt - who of course is the most impressive fictional character - just ask him.
The first movie featuring the character was 1990's The Hunt for the Red October, with Alec Baldwin playing Jack while trying to analyze the actions of a Soviet sub commander, played by Sean Connery.
The second movie was 1992's Patriot Games, in which Harrison Ford played Jack Ryan, and he battles the IRA after rescuing the British Royal family.
The third movie was 1994's Clear and Present Danger, in which Harrison Ford plays Jack again while battling bureaucracy and south American Drug cartels. If you think about how Ryan became president in the books, then you can almost work Air Force One in as an unofficial Jack Ryan movie. How about that?!
The fourth was 2002's The Sum of All Fears dealing with a nuclear explosion on American soil, and this time Jack was played by Ben Affleck.
I read one of the novels, and struggled to get through it, but I did see all the movies except for the Sum of All Fears, and I enjoyed them. They are smart action thrillers, and certainly entertaining. I would say this newest one fits that description perfectly.
This movie starts with a much younger Jack Ryan, we first encounter him at school in England when the September 11th attacks happen. He joins the marines, and gets shot down in a helicopter. He then spends many months in rehab where he meets and falls for Cathy, his therapist - who is in school to become a surgeon. He is recruited by a man named Harper to the CIA - because Harper recognized how smart Ryan was - to work as a plant on Wall Street and look for terrorist plot through shady finances. He finds some questionable items in a Russian account belonging to Victor Cherevin. Harper then sends Ryan to Russia to dig a little deeper. Jack then determines that Cherevin intends to (I will try to explain it, but it was a little confusing) cause a terrorist attack just before doing something to the stock market (buying? Selling?) which will cause a huge market crash, and topple the economic stability of most of the world, but of the U.S. in particular.
The movie is paced well, and stays interesting, even though it does have some slow parts. Clearly I didn’t completely understand the villain’s plans – stock market stuff makes me tune out a little. This is directed by Kenneth Branagh, who once again seems to be adding more to his list of awesome things that he has done. He did the first Thor movie, which was amazing, and his version of Much Ado About Nothing was fantastic, and his version of Hamlet is epic. If you are going to see Shakespeare, see the Branagh version.
For Jack Ryan, he applies his skillful intrigue direction with his growing action-directing skill. The cast is pretty much exactly what you would expect for a movie like this.
- Chris Pine plays Jack Ryan, and while this version of Jack seems very similar to the new version of Captain Kirk, he’s just fine in this movie. He does a good job of portraying the analyst side of Jack, and the apprehension when Jack is suddenly made an active agent instead of just an analyst. It’s something I remember Alec Baldwin also doing in Red October. Pine is definitely capable, and this could turn into another franchise for him.
- Keira Knightly, who I haven’t seen in a while, plays the young Cathy, who Jack first meets as a therapist while he is rehabbing from his accident. She becomes a bit suspicious of all the time Jack is spending doing shady things at the office. When he abruptly has to go to Russia, she decides to go with him. This means that she suddenly has to participate in a sting operation. Knightly is just fine as well, her American accent holds up for the movie. I am not sure I buy the whole “I just came to surprise my husband in Moscow, and I just found out he’s a CIA agent, so of course now I will participate in a highly elaborate plot to entrap a high-ranking powerful Russian businessman” plot point, but hey, whatever.
- Kevin Costner continues to be suddenly very busy by playing Thomas Harper, who recruits Jack and goes with him to Moscow. He actually is one of the best parts of this movie, and I am happy to see him back in non-baseball movies. And I'm also happy to see him not telling Superman not to save people, and being whisked away by a tornado, when Superman could have easily saved him without anyone noticing.
- Kenneth Branagh also plays Viktor Cherevin in addition to directing the movie and is fantastic. He does a lot of non-verbal acting just using his eyes and expressions. Probably because he was too busy directing to memorize a lot of lines. He is properly menacing, and at no point do you believe that Cherevin is not the villain.
- Nonso Anozie plays the driver who picks up Ryan from the airport in Moscow. His plot twist was ruined in all the commercials, but I won’t mention it here just in case you didn’t see any of them. You remember him from being locked in his own vault on Game of Thrones, and faking an American accent on Dracula on NBC.
- Colm Feore plays Ryan’s Wall Street boss, who I kept expecting more from, but no – he’s just the very regular Wall Street boss.
I found this movie entertaining, but I did feel like the plot was a little convoluted. However, I suppose that could be the fault of the book. There seemed to be a lot of red herrings – in that I kept thinking, “Oh! This person is really suspicious! I bet they’re involved!” and then they were not. In either case, I liked it – but I didn’t love it.
7 out of 10. Gained points for Jack being smarter than everyone around him, and Harper asking him to dumb things down for him. Lost points for Cathy immediately being okay with joining in with espionage. Gained points for Mikhail Baryshnikov playing the big-time Russian that Cherevin answers to. Lost points for the the sleeper cell – that’s a terrifying idea, but I suppose that’s the point.
Bonus Video 1: My favorite Kenneth Branagh movie, well second favorite after Thor. Dead Again – it’s amazing, check it out if you haven’t seen it in a while.
Bonus Video 2: The Antoine Fuqua King Arthur, the only thing with Keira Knightly besides Bend it Like Beckham that I really liked (I liked it, but it might not be good). Bonus, it has both cool Rays in it - Stevenson and Winstone, plus Mads Mikkelson, and Joel Edgerton.
Bonus Video 3: Cast Interviews: