A Slight Rise above Mundane for Jack Ryan

 DATELINE: MOVIE MASHUP

Branagh

Director and Archvillain Kenneth Branagh

Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit is some kind of Tom Clancy spinoff for a new movie series franchise. They managed to rope in Kenneth Branagh as both villain and director. And, that put this standard spy thriller into another realm.

Branagh, when he avoids updated Shakespeare, actually directs intriguing films that take tired, old genre action pictures and turns them interesting with minor details.

This film has traditional chase scenes and superfluous action to keep dullards awake. Heaven knows that the tale of a Russian economic czar with a drug problem is tiresome enough. You also have boring “suspense” with the hero downloading key information off computer systems all too easily hacked and onto his handy thumb drive. Oh, please.

In the hands of Branagh, the movie’s routine action may actually take second place to the deeper psychology of the characters and the use of literary detail in the most surprising of places. You hardly expect a discussion of Russian literature and Lermontov over dinner in one of these films.

Yet, Branagh also uses Kevin Costner and Chris Pine in mostly juxtapositions of their careers. Costner was Pine 30 years ago. And, Branagh loves old movies: this film features the voice of Barbara Stanwyk in Sorry, Wrong Number and Mia Farrow in Rosemary’s Baby as glosses on the plot.

So, if you think you have seen this movie many times before, you could be taken aback by a few minor details that set the film apart from others it imitates. Two delightful scenes involve former ballet star Mikhail Baryshnikov as a Russian government official. He’s unbilled and almost unrecognized.

If this movie turns into a franchise foundation film (like Branagh’s version of the first Thor movie), you can count on the fact that nothing to follow will have the same level of delicious detail.

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