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Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit (12A) ***

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Dedicated to the memory of Tom Clancy, who died in October 2013, Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit is an old-fashioned espionage thriller, which revives the writer’s most popular fictional character.

Unlike The Hunt For Red October, Patriot Games, Clear And Present Danger or The Sum Of All Fears, Kenneth Branagh’s film is not adapted from a specific book in the series.

Instead, scriptwriters Adam Cozad and David Koepp transplant the eponymous CIA man into a modern-day terrorist scenario to lay the foundations for a new big screen franchise.

It’s solid, bombastic entertainment, punctuated by outrageous, briskly edited action sequences that owe a sizeable debt to The Bourne Identity and its influential sequels.

Cozad and Koepp meld present and past, harking back to the Cold War to generate friction between global superpowers America and Russia, then playing out a deadly game of cat and mouse using state-of-the-art technology.

The central plot, to destabilise one country’s austerity-battered economy using the financial markets, seems frighteningly plausible.

The daredevil stunts and skirmishes are anything but.

Branagh’s film opens with footage of the September 11 attacks then jumps forward two years to conflict in Afghanistan.

Enemy forces shoot down a US Marine Corps helicopter. On board is Second Lieutenant Jack Ryan (Chris Pine), who incurs massive damage to his spine.

Thanks to encouragement from medical student Cathy Muller (Keira Knightley), Jack learns to walk again and fatherly CIA agent William Harper (Kevin Costner) encourages Jack to return to university to complete his economics degree.

A decade later, Jack is married to Cathy and firmly in the CIA fold, looking for irregularities in overseas finance transactions that could tip the wink to future terrorist activity.

Big set pieces are orchestrated at a lick, including a climactic race through the streets of Manhattan replete with the hoariest of narrative chestnuts: a bomb ticking down to doomsday.

 

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