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Featured Blu-ray / DVD Review: Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit

June 8th, 2014

Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit - Buy from Amazon: DVD or Blu-ray Combo Pack

I previously reviewed the Jack Ryan box set when it came out on Blu-ray last year. When I got a chance to review the latest installment, Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit, it seemed like the natural thing to do. But can this reboot live up to the past installments in the franchise? Or was there a reason it was dumped during the early part of the year?

The Movie

We first meet Jack Ryan as he's going to university in London when he is studying economics. One day he sees the 9/11 attacks on the TV. Shortly after he signs up for the Marines to defend his country. We see a little bit of his career in the Marines, where he is a pain in the ass for his superiors, because he seems to figure out patterns faster than the intelligence officers do. His career ends when the helicopter he is on is shot down.

During Jack Ryan's recovery, he meets two important people. First, there is Cathy Muller, the med student who is helping him recover. The two have a contentious start to their relationship, because she's pushing him harder than he want's to be pushed, but they both know it's for his own good and soon a romatic relationship forms. The other important person is Commander Thomas Harper, of the U.S. Navy. He wants to talk to Jack Ryan, because he is well-versed in the Russian markets (it was part of his dissertation) and is excellent in spotting patterns. He is soon recruited. He will finish his doctorate, get a job on Wall Street, and try and uncover those who are funding terrorists.

Jack Ryan does uncover something. The Russian partners of the bank he works for are hiding information and they need someone in Russia to get this information from Viktor Cherevin, who controls the funds. Harper decides to send him, even though he's an analyst and not an operative. This is bad timing, because Jack's relationship with Cathy is on the rocks. Being a CIA member is a secretive life and Cathy thinks his secrecy means he is having an affair. Once he is in Russia, things go south right away as the "bodyguard" that meets him at the airport turns out to be an assassin. He meets with his handler in Russia, who turns out to be Harper. But that's not the worst news. Cathy thinks he's having an affair, so she's flown to Russia to meet with him. Because of this, and because Cherevin knows she's arrived, Harper thinks they have no choice but to get her involved in the operation.

From this point on, we run into serious spoilers. In fact, I skipped a few scenes to avoid spoilers.

So how is Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit compared to the other films in the Jack Ryan franchise? In a word, it's dull. This is a political thriller, but there's almost nothing here that is new and it is hard to be thrilling when we've seen everything in this film over and over again. There's nothing egregiously wrong with the execution. For instance, the action scenes are well-staged, if a little too familiar. (Jack Ryan and Embee Deng get into a fight in a bathroom and I was instantly reminded of Jason Bourne.) The terrorist plot they are trying to stop feels just as familiar. The acting is good, for the most part. I'm still not 100% sold on Chris Pine's ability to carry a film like this. Kenneth Branagh and Kevin Costner are good in supporting roles, while sadly Keira Knightley has little to do.

The Extras

Extras begin with an audio commentary track with the director, Kenneth Branagh, and one of the producers, Lorenzo di Bonaventura. Up next are four featurettes, starting with Jack Ryan: Smartest Guy in the Room, a 14-minute featurette on the main character and the creation of the movie. Sir Kenneth Branagh: The Tsar of Shadow Recruit is a ten-minute featurette on the director. Jack Ryan: A Thinking Man of Action is a five-minute look at the action scenes in the movie. Old Enemies Return is the longest featurette at 21 minutes and it deals with why they choose Russians as the bad guys. Finally, there are five minutes of deleted and extended scenes, with optional commentary.

The technical presentation is hard to talk about. Visually, the film looks great and level of details is very high. The colors are also excellent while a lot of the film takes place in dark places, but the shadows never harm the level of details. On the other hand, I had a problem with the audio. Scenes with just dialogue were too quiet, while action scenes were too loud. I looked up several other Blu-ray reviews of the movie to see if others were having this problem, but it doesn't seem to be the case. Most other Blu-ray reviews raved about the audio, so maybe there was a problem on my end. Sometimes these things happen.

The Blu-ray costs $20, which is $7 more or 54% more than the DVD. That's a lot more than most Blu-rays cost compared to the DVD release, but $20 for a Blu-ray isn't a bad deal.

The Verdict

Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit isn't a bad movie, but it is hard to get drawn into a story that feels like it is going through the paces. There are enough extras on the DVD and the Blu-ray Combo Pack that it is worth picking up if you liked the movie.

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Filed under: Video Review, Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit, Jack Ryan, Kevin Costner, Nonso Anozie, Kenneth Branagh, Keira Knightley, Chris Pine, Lorenzo di Bonaventura