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January 17th, 2014

Movie Review - Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit

Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit

Starring: Chris Pine, Keira Knightley, Kevin Costner, Kenneth Branagh, Lenn Kudrjawizki, Alec Utgoff, Peter Anderson, Elena Velikanova, Nonso Anozie, and more.

Directed by: Kenneth Branagh Written by: Adam Cozad and David Koepp Based on Characters Created by: Tom Clancy Cinematography by: Hans Zambarloukos Music by: Patrick Doyle

Premise: After being hurt as a marine overseas, Jack Ryan finds a new goal for his life when recruited by a CIA operative who wants to use his high skills in economics to look for terrorist funds in banking institutions. So when he unearths the possibility of an economic attack on the US, Jack goes to Russia to do an audit. That's when he suddenly finds himself becoming a CIA operative, rather than a CIA administrative employee, because now people are trying to kill him. (Rated PG-13)


1) Acting - Thumbs Up: Chris Pine does a good job as the young, and eager recruit, Jack Ryan. Keira Knightley had good chemistry with Pine and gave the character of Cathy some nice little quirks to endear her to the audience. It was good to see Kevin Costner again. He did quite well as Jack's CIA boss. While not given much to work with, Kenneth Branagh did good work as well, especially during his scenes with Keira - some great chemistry, good and later bad, between him and the character of Cathy as well.

2) Special Effects - Total Thumbs Up: The special effects team gave us a few explosions and lots of cool looking computer screen activity. The final fight area must have given everyone a hard time - as they dealt with running water to the knees. Looked good though. And the final explosion of the film looked great.

3) Plot/Story - Neutral: For what the film set out to do, it was too short. It's only 105 minutes long. For some true character development and giving the audience a complicated plot, especially with spy thrillers, the requirement is at least 120 minutes, otherwise something won't get the attention it needs. Unfortunately for the "Shadow Recruit," the lack of proper time to tell the story ended up affecting several things.

Character development had many problems. There are four main figures in the film - Jack, Cathy, Thomas, and Viktor. Viktor's motivations made little sense, especially with what we find out late in the film. And aside from very small glimpses at the rest of them, there's not enough time to get to know any of them well. This unfortunately makes it harder to care about them. And if you don't get the audience to care about your characters, the battle is already lost.

Spy thrillers normally are complex puzzles filled with misdirects, surprises, and are full of tension. This definitely was not the case here. From very early on, we pretty much know the whole plan, just not the specific details, so no real puzzle there, just a time crunch for the hero. The couple of places they did try to surprise us were so minor as to make them nonexistent.

In some of the little things, though, the story was 'spot on'. Ryan's face during the end of his first battle. His lingering stare at the tub as he steps out of the bathroom in a later scene. The adorable way Jack and Cathy hook their pinkies in the car as they try to sell that they're a couple to the driver of the car. These lovely touches though only make the lack of fulfillment that much more sad. And the placement of the proposal flashback had a negative effect. Very odd.

4) Stunts - Total Thumbs Up: The film contains several fights and two chase scenes, and all were done well. The assassination attempt early on was brutal but awesome. It was the best of the lot.

5) Locations/Cinematography - Thumbs Up: Well, it was 'thumbs up' except for one area - and I was so shocked at the waste, it took some of the fun away.

When Jack reaches Russia and is being driven to his hotel, he passes several iconic Russian buildings. This is what one would figure to be a great opportunity to do some cinematography and show off these unusual sights, which work well at setting up the viewers to the new local and give the whole trip a foreign flavor. So I was shocked when the view outside Jack's window was unfocused and rushed! It's hard to envision what they could have had in mind at this point, unless they felt the audience is too familiar with these icons to be worth showing them off? Yet at other points in the film they made great use of buildings in the backgrounds to set mood or pin us to a location. So this made the blurred, unfocused scene make even less sense.

Conclusion: "Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit" is okay for a distraction, but fell far short of expectations. There wasn't really much 'spying' or 'thriller' about the entire affair. Tom Clancy caliber it definitely was not.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5 (Hubby's Rating: Worth Full Price of Admission)

Gloria Oliver
Unveiling the Fantastic



(2015) Fantasy

The King is Dead! Long Live the Undead King!

"What are you implying?"

The magister glided forward and scrunched down beside him.

"That in order to bathe, you must first actually get into the bath."


(2014) Urban Fantasy

It took everything from her, except revenge!

The muscles in my right arm jerked from tension as I tried to make it move and it resisted. A shrill scream inside my head insisted I didn't want to do this. That if I did, there'd be no way to take it back. "I...I'm afraid."


(2011) Young Adult – Fantasy

Which is worse…the monster without or within?


Home—family—the two things he would never have, the two things forever denied him…because of her.

Anger welled inside him, the heat of it suffusing him to the core, gurgling with seething emotions the total opposite of the coolness splashing down from the fountain nearby. Before he realized what he was doing, Jarrin stepped inside the gazebo.

(2007) Young Adult – Fantasy
“Harry Potter meets Dragon Riders of Pern”


“Do you need any help?” she asked. “Just tell me what you want me to do. If you prefer, I’m sure I can round up at least a few people to come over and give you a hand.”

Kel slowly shook his head. “It’s all right. Thanks anyway.” His voice lowered to where she almost couldn’t hear it. “This is all part of my punishment.’

She frowned, not understanding what he meant. “Punishment?”

Kel cocked his head in Clarence’s direction. In a flash, she understood. None of this was an accident. Clarence had landed there deliberately, hoping to make Kel pay for all he went through in the past month. She shook her head, not wanting to believe this, but what the dragon said next took any doubts right out of her head.

(2008) Young Adult – Fantasy
“To save the world she must DIE! Or must she?”


Panic and fear filled with utter helplessness made her dizzy. She knew what would be done with her, she knew what they planned. But there was nothing she could do to stop any of it.

Sharp gasps echoed in her ears as she felt the room’s cold air caress the Eye.

“You were right. She is the one.”

(2002) Adult/YA – Japanese Fantasy Adventure
“The Last Samurai meets Pirates of the Caribbean”


Laying the blade on the floor before him, Toshi parted his kimono until his stomach lay exposed. He tucked his sleeves beneath his legs to hold him upright if he should falter. Ignoring Asano, he took up the blade. His shoulder flared with pain and he tried not to flinch, as he grabbed the blade with both hands. He turned the wakizashi until its sharp point was aimed at his belly, the residence of his soul.

(2004) Adult/YA – Fantasy Mystery
“He tried to forget his past, but his past wouldn’t forget him”


Torren took a step back a sudden shudder racking through him. It was as if he’d never left, as if the boy he’d been would be coming back-though the one who’d loved this room and all these things was long, long dead. That boy died when he’d watched his father’s blood pour forth from his mouth, the end of a sword protruding from his abdomen. That boy died when he survived while everyone else lay dead.

Info, sample chapters, and free reads at www.gloriaoliver.com

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