By Stefanie Sybens (Belgium)


Kenneth Branagh’s latest movie Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit is centered on Jack Ryan who is a fictional character featured in the Jack Ryan series by author Tom Clancy. The movie starts off by introducing Ryan as a college student in London. There is some historical background involved as well since the introduction features the fall of the Twin Towers which could be a clue towards the general overtone of the movie.

The protagonist, Ryan, is introduced as someone who wants to serve in Afghanistan one day and when he is able to do that, he gets badly injured due to a helicopter attack. The movie proceeds at Walter Reed hospital where he is admitted since he is recovering from severe spine and leg injuries. During his admission, he is getting more and more fond of his beautiful physiotherapist Cathy Muller (Keira Knightley) who will become his fiancée later on in the movie. During his stay, he is approached by Thomas Harper (Kevin Costner) who is a member of the CIA. Despite being very mysterious about his position, he proposes Ryan a cover job on Wall Street when in fact, he will be looking for financial traces of terrorists.

Ryan accepts the offer and discovers some irregularities in the Russian stock market where a lot of funds are controlled by Viktor Cherevin (Kenneth Branagh). The latter is planning to bring the U.S. down by setting off a bomb in Manhattan. Ryan plans a visit to Moscow to investigate this since his employer is doing business with Cherevin himself. During his arrival in Moscow he barely survives an attack and the confrontation between both parties causes an even more heated argument.

Meanwhile, Cathy secretly flies to Moscow for a surprise visit and gets entangled in the undercover operation. Ryan confesses working for the CIA and both of them, including Harper, come up with a plan to infiltrate Cherevin’s office. They set up a meeting at a restaurant across Cherevin’s office where Muller plays the part of the femme fatale and is able to keep Cherevin’s attention. In the meantime, Ryan excuses himself and hurries to Cherevin’s office where is able to download the secret files.

Nevertheless, Ryan’s plan has come to Cherevin’s attention who abducts Cathy. Ryan gets hold of a car and immediately starts to follow them. Several action scenes are shown in combination with fragments of the city itself where Ryan is able to rescue Cathy. Then, he traces Cherevin’s son, Aleksandr, in the United States where the bomb is just on time dismantled.

Branagh’s movie is a thriller making use of a few action scenes where the setting of the story plays an important role. His style provides us with a lot of close-ups which rises suspense during the climax in Moscow. Branagh is able to show the psychological depth of the character’s as well, especially Cherevin. He used a long single take to introduce the antagonist which reinforced the strength of this character. Moreover, the psychology causes the story to unravel since Ryan is able to discover the link between Cherevin and his son.

To conclude, Branagh brought us a refreshing version of the action-thriller because of his focus on psychology and panoramic views. However, the plot was rather predictable which resulted in no unforeseen twists in the story.


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