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  • Jared Huizenga

New Jack Ryan, same old results

Andrew Garfield replaces Tobey Maguire and people wonder how Spider-Man can be so skinny. Ben Affleck replaces Christian Bale as Batman and the internet goes virtually insane for a few days.

But Chris Pine steps into the shoes of CIA superman Jack Ryan in “Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit” and the world not only doesn’t seem to care, but it expects and embraces the change.

The Tom Clancy-created character returns for the fifth installment in the franchise. The film serves as a reboot more than a continuance, which is a good thing for me because I haven’t seen the others since they came out.

This time around Ryan is a wounded Marine in a post-9/11 America. While rehabbing his injuries he’s approached by CIA agent William Harper (Kevin Costner) about joining his unit as a financial analyst specializing in tracing the funds that back terrorist regimes.

Soon thereafter Ryan discovers a Russian plot to turn America on its ear and restore the Russian empire to its former high standards.

Ryan travels to Moscow where he meets up with Viktor Cherevin (Kenneth Branagh, “My Week with Marilyn,” “Hamlet”), one of the men who plan to drain the U.S. of its riches and perpetrate a terrorist attack on its own soil.

When forced into action, Ryan must rely on his past military experience to guide him through the dangerous streets of Moscow in order to save his country and the woman he loves, Cathy (Keira Knightley, “Pirates of the Carribean”).

The thing that always nice about a Jack Ryan story is that it’s always pretty straightforward: there are good guys and there are bad guys; there’s right and there’s wrong; there’s America and there’s everybody else (usually Russians).

The other nice thing is that you can always count on Ryan to bring the action. And, quite frankly, he does it better than virtually any other guy with his own film series out there right now.

That’s not to say that recent reboots/sequels haven’t tried. However, where movies like “The Bourne Legacy” and “A Good Day to Die Hard” have tried to go over-the-top with their action and mayhem, director Brannagh instead chooses to go with a more realistic feel. Sure, there are times when the action borders on ridiculous, but for the most part it’s believable.

And that’s what makes “Shadow Recruit” so enjoyable. The concept is far-fetched, but because of how the story is told, there’s tension, there’s emotion and there’s a certain degree of believability. And that’s somewhat rare these days.

Pine (“Star Trek: Into Darkness,” “This Means War”) is actually the fourth actor (following Alec Baldwin, Harrison Ford and Affleck) to play Ryan in the 5-film series and he might be the best to date. He’s not yet to the point in his career that he’s associated with another iconic character and he’s got the acting chops to bring the character more to life than he’s ever been.

Brannagh is (as is to be expected) superb as the cerebral and ruthless Cherevin and Knightley is adorable as Ryan’s brilliant and loving girlfriend.

When you add solid story, excellent cast, good direction and intense but realistic action together, you end up with an excellent film.

“Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit” is living proof that sometimes the character is more important than the person playing them.

★★★★ of ★★★★★

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