Valdosta Daily Times

January 31, 2014

Movie Review

‘Recruit’ in shadow of past Jack Ryans

Adann-Kennn Alexxandar
The Valdosta Daily Times

VALDOSTA — ‘Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit’

Action/Mystery: 1 hour, 45 minutes

Starring: Chris Pine, Kevin Costner, Keira Knightley and Kenneth Branagh

Director: Kenneth Branagh

Rated: PG-13 (Violence and strong language)

Movie Review: “Shadow Recruit” has a few smart moves as an action film based on characters created by famed writer Tom Clancy. However, the film plays as if it is from the Cold War period of filmmaking, when times have changed.   

Dr. John Patrick Ryan (Pine), a young CIA analyst, goes to Moscow, Russia, to investigate a possible threat to the United States. Ryan quickly finds Russian agents have planned a terrorist attack to crash the U.S. economy. While senior CIA operative Cmdr. Thomas Harper (Costner) looks over Ryan’s shoulders, Ryan must infiltrate the headquarters of mogul Viktor Cherevin (Branagh), and the ruthless terrorists hiding behind his corporation.

The arrival of Ryan’s longtime girlfriend Cathy Muller (Knightley) complicates the mission in Russia.

Pine is a nice-looking guy who can sound intelligent. When one looks past those bright blue eyes, one finds he is not the type to play a sophisticated brain like Jack Ryan. Pine appears more like a fraternity jock from a wealthy family. He is not a compelling lead, although he is likable. 

Pine is not the only problem. Other characters appear bland for a spy versus spy film. They appear flat because they appear underdeveloped. The cause is a story that tries to do too much. Unneeded moments clutter the story.

Some good qualities exist regarding this film. It tries to take a Cold War-era theme and inject it with modern themes, such as terrorism, cyber espionage and the global economy. The attempt is smart but the mixture does not accumulate to a fulfilling venture.

Grade: C (Rests in the shadow of other Jack Ryan productions.)


‘I, Frankenstein’

Action/Science-Fiction: 1 hour, 32 minutes

Starring: Aaron Eckhart, Bill Nighy, Miranda Otto and Yvonne Strahovski

Director: Stuart Beattie

Rated: PG-13 (Violence)

Movie Review: Based on characters from Kevin Grevioux’s Darkstorm Studios graphic novel and Mary Shelley’s “Frankenstein; or, The Modern Prometheus,” think of this feature as a light version of “Underworld” (Director Len Wiseman, 2003), which also starred Nighy as the lead villain. “Underworld” featured lycanthropes and vampires battling very much like the gargoyles and demons at war in “I, Frankenstein.”

Adam (Eckhart) is the centuries-old laboratory creation of the scientist Victor Frankenstein. Adam finds himself in the middle of an ancient war between angel-sanctioned gargoyles and evil demons. While the gargoyles see Adam as an abomination, the demons see him as means to resurrect their fellow members from their fiery prison. Thus, a major battle ensues with both sides wanting Adam for different reasons.

A screenplay’s great feat is that it must create a setting and operate within that reality. This action sci-fi story breaks its own rules. The fight of gargoyles and demons is supposedly one fought in the shadows. Humans must not see them or their on-going war. Well, the demons look human until they reveal themselves, but the gargoyles leave their human form to fly around the city as stone gargoyles. In this fictional setting, this will not get any attention at all. Unless you are stoned, a rock-like being flying around the skies will garner attention.  

This film suffers other quirks, too. For one, the battle of good and evil appears worldly, but the film makes the battles appear confined to a particular area often. In addition, the unconvincing story in which the cast exists makes characters and performances minimal.  

Grade: D+ (Not I, Frankenstein.)