FILMGOERS MIGHT NEED to put their thinking caps on, as the new Jack Ryan movie is billed as a “thinking man’s action thriller”. The “thinking” bit is there because director Kenneth Branagh has moved the story away from the usually rarefied setting of an action movie into the real world, kind of. Although a bomb might threaten to level New York in the typical manner of action films, the entire world is facing financial devastation at the same time. Well, that should ring a bell or two.
But as intelligent as Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit aspires to be, its star Chris Pine has a more down-to-earth memory of the shoot: mainly that of having to get up early for some 8am close-up shots. “Who in their right mind does that?” asks Pine.
“It’s the worst. Close-ups suck anyway.”
That brilliant idea came from none other than Branagh, the venerated British actor-director who made Shakespeare hip with films such as Henry V, Much Ado About Nothing and Hamlet. Branagh, whose first thriller Dead Again was less than spectacular, also acts in this latest movie about the Jack Ryan character.
“Normally the close-ups are done at 8pm, but everyone is tired,” Branagh says.
“At 8am, people are a little jangly, and it’s good, because it’s a thriller and you are trying to keep people excited.”
The film certainly succeeds at that. It gallops along at a brisk pace, with some compelling action sequences and a plot that is not as unlikely as it might sound.
The first scene of Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit takes place on September 11, 2001, when the young Ryan is a student in London. (Production took place there and in New York. There was also a frantic fourday shoot in Moscow.) He joins the Marines 18 months later, and after getting injured in the line of duty, is recruited as a CIA undercover operative by William Harper (Kevin Costner).
What starts out as a routine operation turns into a situation where the world is in peril at the hands of a Russian billionaire megalomaniac, played Dangero It may be billed as an intelligent action thriller, but a lot of things still blow up in Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit, Chris Pine and Kenneth Branagh tell Kavita Daswani convincingly by Branagh. Viktor Cherevin is set to unleash a one-two punch: first to destroy – literally – Wall Street, then to manipulate the international currency markets to such a heinous degree that another Great Depression is unleashed.
It may seem a bit far-fetched, but producer Lorenzo di Bonaventura says that is not necessarily so. “The truth is, you can manipulate the market if you have enough money,” he says.
“That is what is happening, and it’s one of the things about the movie I like. I’m more financially secure than most people in the world, yet I feel like it’s really unsafe on an economic level. A lot of people are manipulating it for their own best interests, and it’s cool to have that real world problem in a fantasy setting.” In taking on the Jack Ryan role, 33-year-old Pine steps into the shoes vacated by Alec Baldwin (The Hunt for Red October), Harrison Ford (Patriot Games, and Clear and Present Danger) and Ben Affleck (The Sum of All Fears), who previously portrayed the marine-turned- CIA-operative.
The Los Angeles-born actor, whose leading man looks and grounded, everyman appeal, scored him the role of James T. Kirk on the Star Trek reboot Star Trek: Into Darkness, prepared by watching all four previous Jack Ryan films – the first of which was released in 1990, and the fourth in 2002. Pine says he appreciated a lot of what he saw in the former Jack Ryans. “What spun around in my head were the little details,” he says. For example, “Alec Baldwin was smart, decisive, very male, but the star of that film was really Sean Connery and the ship.” As for Harrison Ford, “he did what he does best, he’s the selfless, reluctant hero who would rather be a family man who drives a VW, and wears a tweed coat”.
“I liked the humility and the sharpness of those characters [played by Baldwin, Ford and Affleck]. In the script I was given, the crux of it for me was a version of that: the guy on the front lines, and then behind the lines,” he says.
But there are notable differences between Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit and the previous iterations. For one thing, this movie is the first Jack Ryan film to not be based on a Tom Clancy novel. Instead, its original screenplay began as a draft by Iranian-British screenwriter Hossein Amini, whose previous scripts included for The Wings of the Dove, Drive, and Snow White and the Huntsman, although David Koepp and Adam Cozad are credited with the final product.
Branagh makes clear that he wanted to avoid the usual clichés associated with a high-octane action film like this. “Our job is to try and make this thing as specific as possible,” he says. “I wanted to make it a personal story.”
His Cherevin is flawed and deeply troubled. “I really enjoyed playing [him], and being a quiet, deadly man carrying a big hurt,” says Branagh.
“He has his beef with America, with Jack Ryan and with what he calls America’s rapacious greed and its actions in Afghanistan and Chechnya. But if you start to be too grandiloquent, it can become polemical, empty, and hollow,” he says. “I’m not trying to make a comment on Russia and America.”
The film’s laconic American lead says he chose to sign on to the franchise because, “I like to work, I got offered it, it seemed like a good gig, and I ran with it.”
Pine spent months researching to help him with the challenge of playing three different characters in the same body: an army vet, a financial analyst, and a CIA agent.
Working with Branagh was also huge plus, he says, and because the director also had a key starring role, there wasn’t a lot of time to redo takes. “He’s clear, concise and specific,” says Pine. “We showed up, did the take, real fast, and it was done.
We had 12-hour days and that was it.
It was great.”
Well, perhaps with the exception of the 8am close-ups. “I guess that you can’t duplicate the kind of energy that brings.
What’s captured in that moment is captured,” says Pine. “You wake up, you’re a little on edge because you don’t know what’s happening and you haven’t figured out the scene. That gives it a certain electricity, and that was captured.”
Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit opens on January 30