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Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit Blu-ray + DVD + Digital HD Review

Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit (2014) movie poster Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit

Theatrical Release: January 17, 2014 / Running Time: 106 Minutes / Rating: PG-13

Director: Kenneth Branagh / Writers: Adam Cozad, David Koepp (screenplay); Tom Clancy (characters)

Cast: Chris Pine (Jack Ryan), Keira Knightley (Cathy Muller), Kevin Costner (Thomas Harper), Kenneth Branagh (Viktor Cherevin), Lenn Kudrjawizki (Constantin), Alec Utgoff (Aleksandr Borovsky), Peter Andersson (Dimitri Lemkov), Elena Velikanova (Katya), Nonso Anozie (Embee Deng), Seth Ayott (Teddy Hefferman), Colm Feore (Rob Behringer), Gemma Chan (Amy Chang)

Buy Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit from Amazon.com: Blu-ray + DVD + Digital HD DVD Instant Video

After emerging from virtual obscurity to steer the Star Trek franchise to unprecedented blockbuster heights in J.J. Abrams' 2009 reboot, Chris Pine seemed as good a choice as any actor to assume the title role in Paramount Pictures' Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit.
The film did not pan out as planned, something Paramount seemed to foresee in delaying it from its scheduled Christmas 2013 opening to the middle of January 2014. What was intended to be a tentpole and to potentially play the role of holiday hit that Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol had two years earlier wound up opening in fourth place and failing to match its relatively modest $60 million budget at the domestic box office.

You could blame Pine, whose appeal in all roles other than Captain Kirk remains plenty in doubt. Alternatively, perhaps you can fault Paramount for believing Tom Clancy's spy series is itself that big a draw. Sure, two of the first three film adaptations of the bestselling novels -- 1990's The Hunt for Red October and 1994's Clear and Present Danger -- grossed well over $100 million domestically back when that still meant a lot. In 2002, Sum of All Fears performed similarly, even with Ben Affleck playing the protagonist on the cusp of laughingstock status. But, Jack Ryan isn't James Bond. You have to assume that Harrison Ford's turns in the role were a factor, while submarine thriller Hunt, marketed as a Sean Connery vehicle (rather than an Alec Baldwin one), was something of a standalone success.

Shadow Recruit performed worse than its four predecessors. Much, much worse. Adjusting for inflation, its $50.6 million North American haul is less than a third of what the franchise's previous low (1992's Patriot Games) earned domestically.

Jack Ryan (Chris Pine) finds his girlfriend (Keira Knightley) aiding him on an assignment in Moscow.

An original story not based on any of Clancy's nine Jack Ryan novels, Shadow Recruit opens in 2001 with Ryan (Pine) studying abroad at the London School of Economics. The 9/11 terrorist attacks are enough to push him into the Marines, where a missile strike in a helicopter over Afghanistan cuts his military career short and requires arduous rehabilitation. During that, Ryan is hand-picked by veteran agent Thomas Harper (Kevin Costner) to join the CIA. Ryan gets a job as a financial analyst at a bank while keeping the fact that he's working for the CIA a secret from all, even his physical therapist turned live-in girlfriend Cathy Muller (Keira Knightley).

Suspecting Jack's having an affair, Cathy is relieved to learn that he's just in the CIA. She joins him in Moscow, where he is assigned on a mission to investigate a possible plot to collapse the US dollar and crush America's economy. With Russia's government secretly and distantly involved, the plot traces back to financial bigwig and badass Viktor Cherevin (Kenneth Branagh, who also directs).

Thomas Harper (Kevin Costner), the veteran CIA agent who hand-picked Ryan for the agency, shows up in Moscow ready to help. Kenneth Branagh not only directs "Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit", he also adopts a Russian accent to play its chief villain Viktor Cherevin.

The swift promotion from analyst to fast-acting operative is an adjustment for Ryan, who survives an attempt on his life made by his assigned bodyguard/driver.
Some effort is made to distinguish that hotel room fight, but the action and everything else about this film fails to make a strong impression.

Shadow Recruit is competent, just not all that compelling. Pine's charm is limited. Knightley is saddled by the curious decision to apparently model her American accent on a teenaged girl's speech. Costner's involvement only reinforces that this franchise feels dated, posing no real competition to the more effects-driven approach that dominates the action genre today. Rather than opt for throwback appeal, Branagh definitely gives this contemporary reboot modern pacing and 21st century sleekness, qualities he became acclimated with on Thor. But it's all in vain, as you are bored by the time the climax arrives and unlikely to remember the specifics beyond the end credits scroll.

Just in time for Father's Day, Paramount has brought Shadow Recruit to DVD and the Blu-ray + DVD + Digital HD combo pack reviewed here.

Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit Blu-ray + DVD + Digital HD UltraViolet cover art -- click to buy from Amazon.com Blu-ray & DVD Details

2.40:1 Widescreen (DVD Anamorphic)
BD: 7.1 DTS HD-MA (English), Dolby Digital 5.1 (French, Spanish, Portuguese, DVS)
DVD: Dolby Digital 5.1 (English, Spanish, French, Descriptive Video Service)
Subtitles: English, English for Hearing Impaired, Spanish, French; BD-only: Portuguese
Not Closed Captioned; Video Extras Subtitled
Release Date: June 10, 2014
Two single-sided, dual-layered discs (BD-50 & DVD-9)
Suggested Retail Price: $39.99
Blue Eco-Friendly Keepcase in Cardboard Slipcover
Also available as standalone DVD ($29.98 SRP) and on Amazon Instant Video

VIDEO and AUDIO

Shadow Recruit was shot on film, not video and you can tell that in the Blu-ray's pleasing 2.40:1 transfer, which features some appropriate light grain but is otherwise sharp, detailed, and stunning. The 7.1 DTS-HD master audio soundtrack seems to be aiming for a technical Oscar. At multiple times, the sound design reaches extreme over-the-top heights, with bass effects that are sure to have any glass in the vicinity rattling.

"The Smartest Guy in the Room" puts Chris Pine's Jack Ryan in a tradition that includes Harrison Ford, Alec Baldwin, and Ben Affleck. Why does John F. Kennedy turn up on a "Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit" bonus feature? Because "Old Enemies Return" is all about the Cold War.

BONUS FEATURES, MENUS, PACKAGING and DESIGN

Bonus features, all exclusive to the Blu-ray here and elsewhere, begin with an audio commentary by actor/director Kenneth Branagh and producer Lorenzo di Bonaventura. They address what's onscreen from the very start, giving us a full discussion with basically no lulls. They speak candidly, touching on such topics as redefining the character, having another city stand in for New York, the freedom of not having to adhere to a novel, Costner and Pine's camaraderie,
and making movies for audiences more knowledgeable than ever about filmmaking tricks. They are way too proud of their work, acknowledging their many technical contributors and praising Knightley for her "remarkable" American accent. While they're not terribly interesting, at least they genuinely seem to care about this production.

Beyond that, we find four HD featurettes.

"Jack Ryan: The Smartest Guy in the Room" (13:37) celebrates the franchise with looks at and comments on the character's four previous films complementing Bonaventura-led discussion of bringing him back and giving him new relevance.

"Sir Kenneth Branagh: The Tsar of Shadow Recruit" (9:49) acknowledges Branagh's dual duties as director and villain.

"Jack Ryan: A Thinking Man of Action" (5:19) pays notice to the film's action scenes and stunts.

"Old Enemies Return" (21:13) devotes a lot of time to discussing the use of Russia as a threat in the film. Crew members and experts (international affairs professors, researchers, former CIA agents) address the history and politics in which such a premise is steeped. For those not already interested in social studies and the Cold War, it's just as boring as it sounds, despite some historical footage and suitable clips from this and other Jack Ryan films.

Cathy (Keira Knightley) has a brief chat with post-run Jack in this slightly extended scene. Nemeses Jack Ryan (Chris Pine) and Cherevin (Kenneth Branagh) share the screen on the fittingly thematic DVD main menu.

Finally, and perhaps of greatest interest to the typical viewer, we get a reel of six deleted or extended scenes (5:03). Not containing anything momentous (even an alternate ending is unremarkable), all but one of the cuts are also equipped
with optional audio commentary by Branagh and de Bonaventura explaining their losses.

While the Blu-ray uses your player's Internet connection to stream trailers, the DVD opens with ones for Noah, Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues, The Wolf of Wall Street, and "Ray Donovan": Season One. The Previews listing runs a Labor Day trailer before repeating those four.

The animated menu employs a host of standard espionage movie imagery, with sound waves, maps, scan lines, etc. surrounding and topping the obligatory montage of blue-tinted film clips. The Blu-ray supports bookmarks and in creative fashion, but like most Paramount ones, will not let you resume unfinished playback.

An insert supplying your Digital HD UltraViolet code and another netting you $15 off your next Ticketmaster sports ticket purchase accompany the two plainly-labeled discs inside the slipcovered eco-friendly blue keepcase.

In Moscow, Jack Ryan (Chris Pine) moves from financial analyst to CIA operative with no training and little warning.

CLOSING THOUGHTS

Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit is clearly designed to relaunch the franchise and give it life beyond Tom Clancy's nine novels. But this prequel/reboot is so average, routine, passionless, and forgettable that its box office disappointment guarantees there's no way the series moves forward with any of the same personnel.

Paramount's Blu-ray combo delivers a high-impact feature presentation and an okay assortment of extras, but I doubt any of that will make you more excited to see a film that most are deservingly having trouble caring about.

Buy Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit from Amazon.com: Blu-ray Combo Pack / DVD / Instant Video

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Reviewed June 11, 2014.



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