[img]http://www.minastv.com/static/minastv/images/new_release/jack-ryan-shadow-recruit-blu-ray-cover-69.jpg[/img]Releasing/Participating Studio(s): Paramount/Skydance
Disc/Transfer Information: Region A; 50GB Blu-ray Disc 1080p High Definition 2.39:1 (Original Aspect Ratio: 2.39:1)
Video Codec: MPEG-4 AVC
Running Time: 106 Minutes
Tested Audio Track: English DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 (Played back on 5.1 configuration)
Director: Kenneth Branagh
Starring Cast: Chris Pine, Keria Knightley, Kevin Costner, Kenneth Branagh, Nonso Anozie, Colm Feore
THE TOM CLANCY THRILLER IS REBORN.
Ahhhh…the great Tom Clancy film adaptations from his beloved CIA/spy novels. Two stand out to me over the years as my personal favorites, and which I own on DVD: Hunt for Red October and Clear and Present Danger. The last Clancy-inspired film I think I saw was The Sum of All Fears, but I didn’t quite care for it (perhaps it was Affleck in the role of Jack Ryan) nor did I like Patriot Games, which saw Harrison Ford return the role he so perfectly played in Clear and Present Danger. What’s interesting about these films based on Clancy’s books is how the different directors keep changing up who plays Jack Ryan, much like what we see with the James Bond-inspired motion pictures; did Alec Baldwin work in Red October? Yes. Did Ford work in Danger? Yes. It’s not every day you can say that a bevy of actors are playing one character depending on what a script calls for – and based on the time frame the book the films are modeled after are in – and that it’s actually working well. We’ve seen these discrepancies with the Batman films, from Tim Burton’s 1989 original to the latest “real world-grounded” Chris Nolan entries – it’s clear not everyone likes everyone picked to play the caped crusader. When Affleck dons the cowl and cape next, the reactions should be very interesting on fan sites to say the least.
That being said, I was more than intrigued when I saw the trailers for Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit, depicting a younger Doctor Ryan (played here by Chris Pine, who I think is a talented actor so long as he’s NOT wearing a Starfleet uniform and pretending he’s anyone’s Captain Kirk) and suggesting the character had an entire life before the events we have come to know in the aforementioned films. A Jack Ryan prequel story? Well, Hollywood pulled this off – with varying success – with the Exorcist prequels, the Star Wars prequels and even a Wizard of Oz prequel…so why not? What’s most interesting about Kenneth Branagh’s Shadow Recruit is the way in which it cleverly ties together elements from other Clancy story-based films which fans will pick up on (or should; I did) to weave it into the Ryan character’s history – for example: There is a moment in the beginning of the film when the young Jack Ryan goes down in a helicopter crash after taking enemy fire above Afghanistan in a post-9/11 mission, ultimately injuring him to the point he must learn to walk again from the confines of an army special hospital. This ties in to what Fred Thompson’s character talks about in Hunt for Red October when he’s discussing Ryan’s injury with an admiral aboard an aircraft carrier; however, what’s odd is that the events depicted in Hunt for Red October are supposed to take place circa 1991, when the film came out, so how could Thompson’s character in that be talking about Ryan’s accident which Branagh’s film suggests takes place after September 11, 2001? It didn’t happen yet, according to my math…unless I’m overthinking this.
There are also some attempts in this prequel story to explain why Ryan is deathly afraid of flying and ends up not being able to deal with mid-air turbulence; after the helicopter experience, it seems his feelings towards “flying things” have been tweaked a bit. But aside from these discrepancies, Shadow Recruit had so much potential, yet it ended up feeling somewhat disappointing at the end. Much like A Good Day to Die Hard or even Air Force One, the plot has to do with Russian baddies looking to do some bad stuff to America, and these guys are willing to go to their deaths to complete the mission. In short, ex-Marine Jack Ryan finishes his doctorate in analysis work on behest of Kevin Costner’s “recruiter” character after he recovers from his helicopter crash injuries and is sent to work in a New York bank secretly monitoring the financial activities of global terror networks and the like. He uncovers a plot set into motion by a Russian corporation to collapse the U.S. economy via a terrorist strike (sound familiar?) after he’s sent to Moscow by his bosses under the guise of a “routine audit.” Much of this is borrowed heavily from other films and the whole “they wanna blow up New York City” thing is really getting long in the tooth now; the last portion of the film has Ryan chasing the Russian’s son around Manhattan trying to stop him from blowing a truck full of explosives. This has been done and done and done already…and it has even happened in real life several times, counting the two bombings on the World Trade Center.
Be that as it may, Shadow Recruit starts off with much promise, as we meet a young Jack Ryan (Pine; is it this guy’s forte to play younger versions of iconic characters a la James Kirk in Star Trek?) who is a Marine and flying into a mission with his fellow soldiers. When the chopper takes enemy fire and goes down, he’s badly injured but his therapy at the hands of Cathy Muller (the lovely Keria Knightley of Pirates of the Caribbean fame) gets him on his feet and walking again – and wins fair lady’s heart, as the two of them become boyfriend and girlfriend and begin living together (couldn’t see that coming). Before he’s fully recovered, Ryan gets a visit from Thomas Harper (Costner), a mysterious recruiter type who offers the young ex-Marine an opportunity to do secret operative-type work for his country…even though on his last mission he barely came back alive. In a certain kind of way, Harper doesn’t really give Ryan a choice in the matter; he believes in the kid and needs immediate help with the intel they’re working on.
Ryan is convinced to finish his doctorate (hence the “Doctor Ryan” references in later films) by Harper, which leads him to a job at a New York City-based “financial firm” that is really a covert office for Harper’s team to monitor the financial behavior of worldwide terror networks and such. Ryan intercepts some strange goings-on at one company in Russia, and ends up piecing together the fact that this company is planning something major against the U.S. Meanwhile, girlfriend Cathy begins to get feelings that Jack is cheating on her based on his mysterious work life, which is necessary due to his working directly with the C.I.A. When he’s asked to go to Moscow to further investigate this problem he’s working on, she’s even more suspicious and wants to meet him in Paris when he’s done with his “assignment.” The term “psycho girlfriend” comes to mind when you see Knightley’s character in this.
Ryan, under the guise of a “routine audit,” pays Viktor Cherevin (director Kenneth Branagh) a visit, the man who is apparently head of this conglomerate they’re investigating. The cold, intimidating Cherevin knows there’s something dangerous about the calculating Ryan, based on one standoff of a conversation they have in the Russian’s office. Things get more complicated when Cathy shows up at Jack’s hotel room to confront him about her feelings that he’s being dishonest with her in the relationship. When Jack is forced into telling her that he in fact works for the C.I.A., she is immediately involved in this plot involving the Russians and some kind of attack on America via financial outlets. Instead of trying to get Cathy out of the country to secure her safety, Harper and Ryan decide to avoid bringing attention to themselves and dress Ryan’s fiancé up in a stunning black above-the-knee ensemble with high heels and a fetching makeup job to distract Cherevin at dinner that night…this is all after they learn the Russian creep has a “thing” for married women. Of course, Cathy’s job at the dinner table is to distract Cherevin long enough by coming on to him so that Jack can infiltrate his office, steal the data he’s got and get it back to Harper and the C.I.A. Sounds easy, right?
Well, before he knows it Doctor Ryan has an angry Russian criminal mastermind and his henchman on his tail after Cherevin discovers who Ryan is and that he has stolen his data that includes all the plans to collapse the U.S. market and then attack via a terrorist bombing. What’s worse, back in the U.S. the FBI and other agencies are tracking Cherevin’s son in Michigan who is the organization’s contact in the States for carrying out this bombing they’re planning; he manages to get a van, disguised as a New York City Police Department vehicle, loaded with the explosives into lower Manhattan with the plan being to blow it underground. The action shifts from Ryan in a daring chase in Moscow as he tries desperately to save the now-kidnapped Cathy from the grips of the psycho Cherevin to New York, where Ryan arrives to attempt to stop Cherevin’s kid from blowing the van.
While taut and exciting in many areas, Shadow Recruit just didn’t quite blow my skirt up; it had a great deal of promise, and that’s what makes it so frustrating to admit that it wasn’t all that great at the end of the day. Much of the material here has been seen and done before, and while it felt like part of the Tom Clancy-inspired family of films in certain ways, in many others it didn’t. Kevin Costner, in what seemed like a wasted role, was better in this than he was in 3 Days to Kill but he still didn’t make much of an impression here…he’s basically background window dressing to Chris Pine’s Jack Ryan character. Pine, meanwhile, was okay in the lead but he’s still no Matt Damon in Bourne, know what I mean? As a rental, this was decent…I don’t think it’s a must-buy.
[img]http://cdn3-www.craveonline.com/assets/uploads/2013/12/jack-ryan-shadow-recruit.jpg[/img]VIDEO QUALITY ANALYSIS: HOW DID THE DISC LOOK?
Surprisingly, Paramount – which typically has churned out some stellar high definition transfers in the past – didn’t really grace Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit with much of anything to grade this title as “fantastic” in the video department. Much of the film is bathed in a DVD-like softness which I found curious, save for a handful of outdoor brightly-lit daytime sequences, and this ran rampant through most of the running time. Whether a stylistic decision on Branagh’s behalf or an issue with the compression is at fault here, I am not 100-percent certain – but it’s clear many of the character-on-character shots and even many facial close ups were rendered too soft.
A good portion of the film is bathed in a sepia/gold-like tinge, and this translated well on the 2.39:1 widescreen encode; likewise for skin tones and general color. Raw detail was an issue because of this inherent softness I mentioned in the visuals, so facial highlights were somewhat obscured and shadowed as if there was a silky veil of Vaseline smeared on the image. While serviceable, this was far from a reference video transfer.
[img] http://cdn.hitfix.com/photos/4861073/Jack_Ryan_Shadow_Recruit_review.jpg[/img]AUDIO QUALITY ANALYSIS: HOW DID THE DISC SOUND?
Running as a “dumbed down” 5.1 mix on my system, Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit’s 7.1 DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack in English suffered from the same problems other 7.1 mixes I’ve tested on recent Blu-ray releases from Paramount: That somewhat stuffy, blanketed, low-mastered vibe that required a great deal of volume goosing to really heat up and fill my room. Dialogue was again a bit low and hushed in the mix, while the entire track seemed mastered at way too low a level…in the plus column, though, there is a moment in the beginning of the film during the attack on Ryan’s helicopter that was accompanied by loud, aggressive, all-channel-encompassing effects that really shook the room. After that, it seemed like the whole track got quieter and quieter as the running time went on.
This wasn’t a bad track per se – it just seemed more in line with what I found on World War Z, Captain America and some other titles from Sony like White House Down and Olympus Has Fallen. There were a few moments of deep LFE drop and rumbling but nothing that concussively recurred or sustained; likewise, the surround activity was lean for most of the film save for when action setpieces heated up and involved the rear soundstage more in what was transpiring onscreen – bullet ricochets, screeching getaway cars, environmental fill Foley, etc.
I expected a bit more out of this title sound-wise.
This was an interesting entry into the Tom Clancy-inspired film “franchise” that has a loyal fan following the world over. It was a commendable effort as a prequel story by Kenneth “Thor” Branagh and Chris Pine isn’t bad in the lead…but much of it feels done already, as if they fused elements from Bourne Identity and Good Day to Die Hard and perhaps a handful of other thrillers involving Russian bad guys to create a feasible plot for the Jack Ryan character to take on. It didn’t seem, at the end, very memorable to me…but I can definitely recommend a rental.