'Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit' Is Capable Of 'Mild Diversion'

If the name of the title character in Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit sounds familiar, it should. Ryan has been the focus of numerous Tom Clancy novels and also been the protagonist of five previous films.

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RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

The late Tom Clancy was hero of American espionage writing, and the hero of his spy novels was Jack Ryan. On the big screen, Ryan has been played by Alec Baldwin, Harrison Ford and Ben Affleck.

Now, there's a new Ryan in town. Los Angeles Times and MORNING EDITION film critic Kenneth Turan has our review.

KENNETH TURAN, BYLINE: "Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit" is serviceable, but not compelling, something that could pass for the real thing if you're not looking too hard.

This Jack Ryan film stars Chris Pine as the durable CIA analyst. It's an origin story, as well as a reboot. We see Ryan meet Cathy, the love of his life, played by Keira Kneightly. And we see how he's recruited into the CIA by Commander William Harper, played by a steely Kevin Costner.

Ryan's cover job is with a big Wall Street bank. He discovers that the Russian bank his firm is doing business with is hiding enormous amounts of money. Harper wants him to go to Moscow and audit everyone's books, a situation that makes fiance Cathy nervous enough to show up in the Russian capital, as well.

(SOUNDBITE OF MOVIE, "JACK RYAN: SHADOW RECRUIT")

KEIRA KNEIGHTLY: (As Cathy Muller) You lied to me for three years, and you were good at it. I think you actually enjoyed it.

CHRIS PINE: (As Jack Ryan) Cathy - can we have a minute, please?

KEVIN COSTNER: (As Commander William Harper) No, you can't.

(As Commander William Harper) No, you can't.

KNEIGHTLY: (As Cathy Muller) I would like to talk to Jack alone, please.

COSTNER: (As Commander William Harper) This is geopolitics. It's not couples therapy.

TURAN: It will come as no surprise that those Russians do, in fact, have something up their sleeve. The key culprit is a dour, fanatical plutocrat named Viktor, a juicy part that director Kenneth Branagh has kept for himself. Viktor may have more secrets than St. Basil's Cathedral has onion domes, but our man Ryan is not afraid to stand up to him.

(SOUNDBITE OF MOVIE, "JACK RYAN: SHADOW RECRUIT")

KENNETH BRANAGH: (As Viktor Cherevin) You Americans like to think of yourselves as direct. But I wonder if perhaps you are just rude.

PINE: (As Jack Ryan) You Russians think of yourselves as poets, but perhaps you're just touchy.

TURAN: Once the formerly desk-bound Ryan goes operational in a big way, the verbal sparring in "Shadow Recruit" gives way to lots of brisk action. Still, there is no shaking the feeling that this group is a kind of an espionage film B team, capable of mild diversion, but nothing more.

MONTAGNE: Kenneth Turan reviews movies for MORNING EDITION and The Los Angeles Times. And you are listening to MORNING EDITION, from NPR News.

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