Before I even get into anything, Kevin Costner stole the effing show. If you’re not prepared to handle that, maybe check out my review of Star Trek Into Darkness if you want some Chris Pine love.
Also, fail on the poster. Ripping off The X Files for the tagline? For shame.
The story begins with Jack Ryan (Chris Pine) and how he became the hardcore company man in the CIA. After 9/11, Ryan signs up to join the war effort and gets massively injured. He ends up in a recovery hospital with Cathy (our dear friend Keira Knightley), a medical student who needs to get her physical therapy hours done to graduate. She pushes him, and he does make a full recovery with full use of his legs.
Harper (Costner) shows up and recruits Ryan to join the CIA, which consists primarily at first as a financial analyst with a regular day job with some superspy stuff on the side, and for most purposes in the movie, Harper is Ryan’s handler and supervising officer.
The film jumps ahead a couple years, and as Ryan discovers a discrepancy in the financial holdings of a Russian company, he is sent into the field to sort them out. Meanwhile, he has to keep all of this from Cathy, who is now his girlfriend, because he can only reveal his true occupation to his wife.
However, the contact, Viktor Cherevin (the inimitable Kenneth Branagh) is a much more formidable opponent than they initially suspect. Though Ryan has to do the majority of the legwork – getting in and out of Cherevin’s office, decrypting files, running away from security – Costner is just too cool for school in every scene he shows up in.
Ryan, on the other hand, seems like he’s just scrambling, trying to keep up, which sort of makes sense, as he’s not used to field work, but the guy was a soldier before he became a spook, so… yeah. I’m going to blame the writers on this one – Pine is a rock star, no matter what. The writers spent too much time focusing on the action instead of the character and made Jack Ryan react too often instead of taking action, taking charge, of his situations.
I was a little disappointed with Knightley’s performance in this as well. It was strange to hear her with an American accent, and she seemed mostly desperate to play Ryan’s sidekick for most of the latter part of film, once she finds out he’s a spy. Though she does get one over on Cherevin for a while there, so that was sort of fun. Again, I blame the script. Knightley is used to playing someone with a little more depth, and here, Cathy is not really given enough scenes to escape two-dimensionality and the sidekick-y nature of the role.
Overall, it was a fun, fast-paced movie, with a great performance from Kevin Costner. It did fall a little short of expectations, considering the hero and title character’s role wasn’t as strong as it could have been (see notes above about the screenplay writing), but it was well worth seeing.
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