After the success of Bond and Bourne, plus all the superhero reboots, it was only a matter of time before forehead-scratching Hollywood execs looked along their dusty shelves and rediscovered Jack Ryan.
Following the various outings by Messrs Ford, Baldwin and Affleck, it’s the turn of go-to franchise freshener Chris Pine to break into a sweat as the economics scholar-whizz turned CIA lone wolf, charged with singlehandedly saving the Western world.
As in those recent superhero revisits, we get the chance here to learn just how Jack Ryan went from booky to buff – via a tour in the Marines, and a stint in rehab.
Cut to Jack Ryan on Wall Street as a genius analyst, cut to him walking across Red Square because it’s turned out the pesky Russkies are cooking the books and stirring up world disorder. (Jack Ryan’s literary creator Tom Clancy set his exploits firmly against a Cold War setting, which creative powers have rightly seen no need to diverge from.)
How did he end up here? Because he was recruited in rehab by spooky CIA senior bod Thomas Harper, played smoothly by Kevin Costner. In his uniform straight out of ‘No Way Out’ and with his sudden appearances under lampposts, Costner’s chats with his new protégé are the best bits in the film, along with Kenneth Branagh taking time out of the director’s chair to play quiet-voiced, art-loving villain Victor Cherevin – somebody a bit more interesting than your average Soviet warrior, but not really given enough to do here, sadly.
Meanwhile, Chris Pine, with his wide blue eyes and Californian lifeguard proportions, is no more likely a pixel-eyed, number-crunching trader than he is a Soviet antagonist, but he gives things a game old go as Jack Ryan, with convincing sparring scenes, including introducing one of his Moscow welcoming committee to the porcelain in his hotel en-suite, with a reassuring crunch.
Less acceptable is Keira Knightley as the oh-so-serious doctor attending him in rehab - telling him off all the way to his heart (think Nicole Kidman’s gratuitous role in ‘Days of Thunder’) with her all-pout-no-trousers, smiley-frowney single expression – you know the one - and an American accent to boot. Pine may not be the most pure-bred spy, but if he can keep a poker face with all that going on, the franchise is probably safe in his big lifeguard's hands.
'Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit' is in UK cinemas from today, Friday 24 January. Watch the trailer below...