It’s been over 10 years since the big screen has decided to adapt one of the works of Tom Clancy, we’ve still gotten plenty of video games, but there has been a noticeable lack of movies based on the characters of the most prolific military fiction writer of our time. Now, after his unfortunate passing, we get to see the reboot of his most famous character. Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit isn’t just a new film about the titular analyst who, in the novels, eventually becomes president, it’s also a merging of Clancy’s action hero John Clark, who most people know better as Rainbow 6 (Rainbow is the name of the team, 6 is Clark’s designation that is eventually passed to Ding Chavez in the games, I know I’m a Rainbow 6 nerd).
By rebooting Jack Ryan, they had to fundamentally change the character. After all, if we’re going to have Chris Pine running around modern cities doing political thriller stuff, he can’t very well have been involved in The Hunt for Red October. Usually when you hear the word reboot, nothing good comes of it. When you change a character, you usually lose what made us like them in the first place. Shadow Recruit does change Jack Ryan, but it does it in a way that somehow manages to ring true to the character while still becoming something new.
Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit is one of the best political action thrillers I’ve seen in the past ten years. Sure, the plot is somewhat predictable, but the journey and the small events within are incredibly thrilling and give you the ‘on the edge of your seat’ feeling that so many movies claim to provide. It’s only enhanced by the great interplay between Chris Pine and Kevin Costner, who provides a much better performance than he did in Man of Steel. Even Keira Knightley is great as Jack Ryan’s girlfriend Kathy, who wind up becoming an integral part of the third act.
If anything, Shadow Recruit is formulaic and predictable to the very formula that Tom Clancy cemented within his own novels. Yes, Jack Ryan is attempting to stop a terrorist attack, but be it terrorist attack or foreign power declaring war or whatever, this isn’t the same plot you would see in a White House Down or 24, everything is not only many layers deeper, but all builds from a much smaller and more satisfying place. Even in combining Jack Ryan and John Clark there are careful steps taken to make sure that both Ryan’s analytical skills and combat acumen are fully explained and set up in a logical manner.
It’s weird to think that Chris Pine is the weird merger of Alec Baldwin, Harrison Ford, Ben Affleck and Liev Schreiber, but not only is the Jack Ryan of Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit the blend of Jack Ryan and John Clark, but he is, in a weird way, a blend of the actors who preceded him. And while Shadow Recruit may rewrite Tom Clancy’s most famous character, it combines the best aspects of Clancy’s stories into a character revival that could challenge Daniel Craig’s Bond. This year may have had a rocky start, but Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit sets a high bar for the movies to follow.