A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit is based on Tom Clancy's famous CIA agent protagonist, and includes a good bit of violence, from fast and clean shots (execution or sniper style) to more close-up drownings and stabbings and fights to the death or on moving vehicles. There's a little bit of romance -- mostly kissing and embracing in bed -- but mostly this is your typical violent (but not overly graphic) political thriller.
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What's the story?
Based on Tom Clancy's legendary book character but not a particular novel, JACK RYAN: SHADOW RECRUIT provides the backstory that follows the young Ryan (Chris Pine) as he leaves grad school post-9/11 to enlist in the U.S. Marines; survives a helicopter crash and saves his two soldiers; and recovers from his serious injuries under the care of pretty medical student Dr. Cathy Muller (Keira Knightley). As he recuperates, General Tom Harper (Kevin Costner) recruits him to join the CIA as an analyst. Ten years later, working undercover as financial markets analyst, Ryan believes the Russians are planning a terrorist attack that will both cripple the economy and kill thousands. Sent to Moscow on assignment, Ryan quickly realizes his Russian contact, billionaire Viktor Cherevin (Kenneth Branagh, also the director) is trying to execute him. No longer just an analyst, Ryan must step into his new role as an operational spy -- particularly when his now-fiancee Cathy shows up and complicates his mission.
Is it any good?
Pine, a likable and charming actor, has clearly taken a cue from not just the previous actors who've played Jack Ryan, but also the undisputed king of spy films, Tom Cruise. Like Cruise, who has built his career on playing conflicted heroes, Pine knows how to play a range of earnest, determined, deadly, and full of confident swagger. You can't help but root for him, especially as the supporting actors -- Costner and Knightley in particular -- make this such an easy-to-watch political thriller. Is it as smart as Tinker, Tailer, Soldier, Spy? No. Is it as deeply personal as Patriot Games? Not quite.
But Branagh is clearly having fun rebooting the legend of agent Jack Ryan, and he gave himself the most entertaining role as a Russian mobster/financier (apparently one is the other). Those old enough to recognize him will thrill at the fact that none other than Mikhail Baryshnikov plays a Russian minister with sinister motives. And Costner, who's approaching 60, seems to have accepted his role as the elder statesman quite adeptly. This isn't the best spy flick ever, but it's worth seeing for what it is -- a decent genre thriller with an engaging cast.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the popularity of rebooting and updating popular franchises. Why is the story of this particular CIA agent so compelling? Do you think the filmmakers did a good job of making him compelling to a new, younger audience?
What's your reaction to the violence in this movie? How does it compare to other thrillers -- is it more or less brutal? Do you think watching this kind of movie violence desensitizes teens and adults to brutality?
How does Chris Pine's version of Jack Ryan compare to the one played by Alec Baldwin, Harrison Ford, and Ben Affleck? Which actor/age do you prefer Jack Ryan the character?
Does the movie make you think more about current events and politics? Was it confusing why the Russians were the "enemies"? What do you know about the history of American-Russian relations.
- In theaters: January 17, 2014
- On DVD or streaming: June 10, 2014
- Cast: Chris Pine, Keira Knightley, Kevin Costner
- Director: Kenneth Branagh
- Studio: Paramount Pictures
- Genre: Action/Adventure
- Topics: Book Characters
- Run time: 105 minutes
- MPAA rating: PG-13
- MPAA explanation: sequences of violence and intense action, and brief strong language
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