There's nothing very original in this spy thriller, but director Branagh gives the film a weighty sense of importance that at least makes it feel important. He can't make up for the flimsy plot or cliched characters, but he can coax shaded performances from the cast to grab our interest. And while the action is never as coherent as a Bourne movie, it at least has a sense of gravitas about it.
For yet another reboot of the Tom Clancy franchise, we go back earlier to follow Jack Ryan (Pine) as he is inspired by the 9/11 attacks to leave his financial studies and join the Marines. Shot down over Afghanistan, he undergoes a gruelling recovery and is recruited by CIA operative Harper (Costner) to work undercover on Wall Street, monitoring terrorist fund movements. A decade later his girlfriend Catherine (Knightley) has no idea what his real job is, so when she surprises him on a business trip to Moscow she ends up in the middle of an operation to investigate shady Russian businessman Cherevin (Branagh), who's behind some sort of imminent global attack.
The film's brisk pace focusses on Jack's motivations all the way through, so we understand his earnest desire to serve his country. Although we can't quite figure out how he developed all these he-man skills working behind a desk in a bank. Not only is he adept at firearms and hand-to-hand combat, but he can ride a motorcycle like a stuntman! Fortunately, Pine's everyman persona makes him easy to identify with and bodes well for future franchise instalments. Opposite him, Costner is marvellously lean and cool, Branagh has terrific lip-less menace and Knightley does her best in the standard underdeveloped female role.
Even though we have plenty of fun while it lasts, it's the thinly developed script that ultimately makes the film feel vaguely unsatisfactory. Sure, it's rollicking entertainment with the sheen of something more vital and relevant. But ultimately everything about the film is formulaic and predictable. And if the producers want this to be the start of a new franchise, they're going to need to be a lot more inventive than this.
Run time: 105 mins
In Theaters: Friday 17th January 2014
Box Office USA: $50.5M
Box Office Worldwide: $50.5M
Distributed by: Paramount Pictures
Production compaines: Di Bonaventura Pictures, Etalon film, Paramount Pictures, Skydance Productions, Mace Neufeld Productions, Buckaroo Entertainment
Contactmusic.com: 3 / 5
Rotten Tomatoes: 56%
Fresh: 89 Rotten: 71
IMDB: 6.2 / 10
Director: Kenneth Branagh
Screenwriter: Adam Cozad, David Koepp
Starring: Chris Pine as Jack Ryan, Keira Knightley as Cathy Muller, Kevin Costner as William Harper, Nonso Anozie as Embee, Gemma Chan as Amy Chan, Deborah Rosan as Customer, Lenn Kudrjawizki as Constantin, Price Lindsey as Waiter, Celine Jedidi as Restaurant Diner, Ricky Rajpal as VIP Business Man, Kenneth Branagh as Viktor Cherevin, Karen David as FBI Lead Agent, Elena Velikanova as Katya, Aleksandar Aleksiev as Cherevin's Bodyguard, Colm Feore as Rob Behringer, Peter Andersson as Dimitri Lemkov, David Paymer as Dixon Lewis, David Hayman as Sergey Dostal, Amy J. Kim as UN Announcer, Bogdan Kominowski as Mr. Borovsky, Maggie Daniels as Mrs. Borovsky
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