The first thing you should know about Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit is that this film isn’t concerned with portraying an invincible, James Bond-like character in the lead. The second is while the movie features the same doomsday-esque scenario that has sadly come to define our current crop of action flicks, it appears to make an effort to include a new (and some might say nerdier) element to the consequences. At least that’s what was apparent from the 20 minutes of footage screened for press at Paramount Pictures’ offices in New York City on Monday night.
The footage began with Our Man in Moscow, Jack Ryan (Chris Pine), who’s just arrived in Russia on a yet-to-be-detailed mission. After meeting up with a driver/bodyguard and picking up a few guns that apparently didn’t make it into Ryan’s carry-on luggage, they head towards a boutique hotel downtown. Unfortunately, all the chitchat between Ryan and his driver turns out to be––surprise!––a complete ruse: once they get to the hotel room, the man attempts to shoot Ryan in the back of the head. Luckily, Ryan ducks. Punches are thrown, sinks are broken, but eventually, our hero comes out on top, dispatching his would-be assassin by drowning him in the bathtub. Cue the anti-invincible, action-hero moment, as the incident leaves Ryan visibly shaken, having just realized he killed a man with his bare hands.
After the footage, we spoke with Pine about the humanistic approach in this scene, which is something both he and director Kenneth Branagh discussed in full.
“Ken and I always talked about that with big films you often see so much carnage and violence and mayhem… but no one seems to be reacting to the fact that they just watched someone die. We thought, what would that look like? What would that feel like?” said Pine, who described his version of Ryan as “MacGuyver-like.” “Even though [Jack Ryan] has been in the Marines, he’s never looked someone in the eye that died. We thought that was an interesting moment to have in a film like this. I don’t think one would expect to have that.”
In terms of the unexpected factor, Pine’s absolutely right: you don’t see today’s action movies doing that. This concept is revisited later in the footage, where, having just killed a man, a now agitated and paranoid Ryan looks to rendezvous with his C.I.A. mentor/boss William Harper (Kevin Costner) for further instructions. Costner, playing a grizzled Agency vet, has no problem telling Ryan that he a) did a good job, but b) better man up because he’s “not just an analyst anymore, [he’s] operational.”
The analyst reference is a throwback to the earlier incarnations of Jack Ryan, played 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), respectively. While the previous films were all loosely based on Tom Clancy books, this particular chapter isn’t, instead opting for an adaptation of the character only. After watching the footage, this Jack Ryan appears to be a composite of the ones we’ve already seen on-screen: a mix of Baldwin and Affleck’s field-ready go-getter, along with Ford’s professorial, behind-the-desk analyst.
“In terms of the character, what I like about [Jack Ryan]––with Harrison, there is this kind of innate humility to him... He’s the tweed coat man in his f***ing Volkswagen teaching at Annapolis, and he’s not really interested in anything other than his books. He’s boring and I love that about him,” said Pine, when discussing past Jack Ryan performances. “But Alec, he’s got that incisive, scalpel-like precision in his portrayal.”
That combination will be put to use in Pine’s version of Ryan, which is laid out perfectly during the meet-up with Costner. Having just killed a man, he reveals to the audience the real reason he is in Moscow: to stop Russia from purposefully manipulating the dollar and collapsing the U.S. economy while coordinating a terrorist attack on American soil (in other words the aforementioned nerdy doomsday scenario). Granted, this was the simplified version of what was said during the footage. If you’re not versed in the Cliffnotes edition of our economy, it might be a struggle to keep up. Then again, we won’t know for sure until the full version gets screened in two months.
For now, the few things that are certain are the slick fight sequences and the exotic locales detailed in the 20 minutes of footage I saw. That and Pine’s love of the character, including his favorite Jack Ryan flick, The Hunt for Red October.
“I love the fact that macrocosmically the film is about nuclear catastrophe. But really what it’s about is this man knowing his bad guy, knowing his foe so well, and it’s picking apart this one man’s brain. That’s the key that opens up the rest of the movie.”
Whether Pine and Branagh were able to find that same key won’t be known until Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit hits theaters on January 17, 2014.