Imagine one intrepid studio executive – no it’s not an oxymoron; there’s more of them then we suspect (I suspect) – having survived the cold-sweat panic that must have been induced upon the first viewing of Shadow Recruit and – leaving the live action sequences just as they are – brought in a new writer, and, with a few strategically placed dialogue overdubs, transformed this goofy embarrassment into one of the most brilliant spy thriller parodies of all time. It was almost there, unintentionally of course, but it was almost there.
It could have been done. Sure. At first, people would have said, “What is this madness?” But the studio could have followed up each showing with a documentary short juxtaposing a few key original scenes with the new Bad-Lip-Reading (see YouTube) versions of the scenes and the audience of the world would have gone wild with appreciative ovations.
Sadly, no major plot changes would have been required. Yes, it was that bad.
Every action espionage cliché known to man is tossed into the stew in a kind of movie scene equivalent of a malapropism. Didn’t anybody read this thing?
My heart goes out to the cast and crew. The gifted Kenneth Branagh was snagged as both the director and villain. The talented Chris Pine, excellent as Captain Kirk from the rebooted Star Trek, is Jack Ryan. And a fine Ryan he could have been. Kevin Costner is Jack’s CIA recruiter and mentor. How did they get suckered into this? Well, who’s going to turn down a Jack Ryan role? The agent calls. Yeah, I’ll take it. By the time they knew- it was too late. These are talents to reckon with. I just reckon they screwed the pooch this time out.
Ryan, a brilliant scholar and financial wunderkind, joins the Marines after the events of 9/11. Injured in action, he returns home and following rehabilitation is lured into the spy biz by Thomas Harper, played by Costner. Up until this point, the movie is rather good. Unfortunately, this point is reach in about ten or fifteen minutes. Then comes the downward spiral. Ryan, a desk-bound agent (how long do you think that will last?) stumbles upon some suspicious financial transactions by the Russian and Costner, so financially illiterate he asked Ryan to explain it to him in baby talk, has a revelation and takes it upon himself, without so much as a consultation with a CIA bookkeeper, to set in motion a chain of events which is comically inconceivable.
If that’s not enough, incongruity is added to the implausible. In other words, a thriller isn’t a thriller with just financial schemes in play. There has to be some pyrotechnics with your geek squad hacking and jaw-flapping, which involves several tech wizards set up in the back of a van with monitors galore brainstorming one far-fetched scenario after another. Of course, they choose to chase the wildest of the geese. When the clock is ticking and the world is in the balance, isn’t that what you do? How these two paths – cyber terror and the old ultra violence – converge to complement each other in terms of plot development in this particular case, who knows? Maybe we’re just supposed to watch the action and the chase scene and suspect we missed something that would explain it all.
I don’t think they’ll get away with it.
DIRECTOR: KENNETH BRANAGH
WRITERS: ADAM COZAD, DAVID KOEPP
STARS: CHRIS PINE, KEVIN COSTNER, KENNETH BRANAGH, KEIRA KNIGHTLY, ALEC UTGOFF
RUNTIME: 105 MINS
COUNTRY: USA, RUSSIA