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Video Reviews

Plugged In Rating
Content Caution
MPAA Rating
Credits
Genre
Drama, Action/Adventure, Mystery/Suspense
Cast
Chris Pine as Jack Ryan; Keira Knightley as Cathy Muller; Kevin Costner as Thomas Harper; Kenneth Branagh as Viktor Cherevin
Director
Kenneth Branagh (Thor)
Distributor
Paramount Pictures
In Theaters
January 17, 2014
On Video
June 10, 2014
Reviewer
Bob Hoose
Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit

Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit

Young Jack Ryan may impress people by being a bright young economics student who's adept at spotting subtle shifts in numerical statistics and market trends. But he's also a guy who knows himself pretty well. And so after watching the events of 9/11 on TV while studying in London, Jack quickly decides his life needs to head in a new direction.

He immediately joins the Marines and ships off to Afghanistan to fight for his country. It's not until he's badly injured in a helicopter crash and struggling through a difficult physical recovery that his chain of command realizes the role this heroic statistician might best play.

Jack is approached by a Navy commander named Thomas Harper who offers him an opportunity the patriotic guy can't pass up: the CIA. It's sure a lot better than just flirting with his pretty med student therapist and wondering what to do with the rest of his life! With a little strategic maneuvering he soon becomes a covert agent on Wall Street. His mission? Keep an eye on the world's supplies of cash so he can spot any possible terrorist money movements.

The sharp-eyed Jack does his job well and with time notices something suspicious going on with a Russian company. There's this businessman named Viktor Cherevin who seems to be secreting away some sizable accounts and buying up huge caches of American currency. Could it be a plot to destabilize the dollar?

Jack brings his findings to his CIA handlers—who want to take immediate action. Of course, the best person to check out this possible plot up-close is Jack himself. And so Harper prompts the newbie agent to pick up a gun and move from number-crunching analyst to head-cracking spy guy.

Positive Elements

Through Jack and some of his comrades, the movie lauds the seasoned and well-synchronized efforts of men and women in the CIA to protect the nation. There's no question that Jack is the kind of take-action hero who's willing to do whatever he can to serve his country and protect those he cares about. After volunteering for duty in Afghanistan, for instance, he single-handedly saves the lives of two fellow soldiers when their chopper goes down―subsequently subjecting himself to a great deal of physical damage. He also jumps into a van packed with explosives to drive it away from a populated area—without thought for his own safety. He runs pell-mell after heavily armed thugs in order to save an innocent.

That's not to say he sees himself as a super secret agent. He shakes like a leaf after his first life-or-death encounter. And he balks at the idea of this spy stuff endangering his girlfriend, Cathy, in any way.

For Cathy's part, she bravely steps up to support and help Jack with a Moscow mission―putting her life in danger through the course of it. Jack tells her, "I love you desperately," and he begs her, "Don't lose faith in me."

Spiritual Content

Viktor prays briefly in a Russian cathedral―lifting up the deadly efforts of a terrorist.

Sexual Content

Jack and Cathy live together. We see him ask her to marry him while they're in bed together. They're both covered by a sheet, but apparently naked.

Violent Content

This is a spy-thriller/actioner. You knew that from the trailer. As such there are loads of high-flying, fast-driving and explosively thumping moments throughout. And in the midst of the espionage action, numerous people are shot down by snipers, in closer-up gun battles and in bullet-to-the-head-or-chest executions.

A knife is viciously plunged into a man's throat. In a mano-a-mano knock-down-drag-out struggle, Jack goes at it with a large killer who's been shooting at him. The two men pound and grapple with each other in a bathroom, shattering glass and porcelain fixtures with bodies and heads. Finally Jack brutally thumps the man's head down and drowns him in a slowly filling bathtub.

Car chases result in lots of surrounding collateral damage. Cathy is grabbed, slapped and threatened with painful torture. A terrorist and his van full of explosives are obliterated after falling off a pier. As mentioned, a young Lt. Ryan is in a helicopter when the craft is blown out of the sky by a ground-to-air missile. The passengers are tossed violently about, and one man gets sucked through a ragged hole torn in the chopper's side. We see a badly broken and bleeding Jack as a doctor rolls him over and probes his burned and lacerated back. We later see another healing war survivor who's lost a leg.

Crude or Profane Language

One f-word. Three or four s-words. God's name is abused five or six times (half of which are exclamations of "g‑‑d‑‑n"), and Jesus' name is blasphemed another half-dozen times.

Drug and Alcohol Content

Jack, Viktor and Cathy all drink glasses of wine at dinner, Jack, in an attempt to appear drunk, gulps the wine and feigns taking several Percocet pills with it.

Earlier, when Jack is recovering from his war wounds and struggling with the pain, he asks Cathy for a painkiller. She gives him one but asks him to wait two minutes before taking it. "Why?" he asks her. "So that you know you can," she replies. Viktor, who is suffering from his own debilitating injury, injects himself with a syringe and pops prescription pills.

Conclusion

Past Jack Ryan movies have included The Hunt for Red October, Patriot Games, Clear and Present Danger and The Sum of All Fears. A-list stars putting flesh on his lithe literary frame are the likes of Alec Baldwin, Harrison Ford and Ben Affleck.

Enter a hefty dose of high-action, next-gen spit and polish—along with actor Chris Pine, likely best known for another cinematic reboot in the role of one James T. Kirk. And enter director Kenneth Branagh (Thor), who reboots the Tom Clancy-penned hero's tale (and quickly strays into territory that late author never trod), serving up something of an alternative origin story bedazzled by ticking clocks, backroom espionage, racing vehicles and smash-dash action-action-action. Innocents are threatened, a thickly accented villain worthy of any Soviet-era potboiler schemes and kills, and only one man is brave enough, smart enough, right enough to save the day.

If your mind is starting to go to James Bond or maybe Die Hard's John McClane, then you're getting what Ken and Chris are going for. And if you're also remembering that those types of pics tend to drop a lot of bone-breaking, bullet-riddling violence in moviegoers' laps right along with whip lashings of foul language, well, then you know you're reading a Plugged In review.

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