Monday, September 14, 2015

Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit

Year 7, Day 257 - 9/14/15 - Movie #2,149

BEFORE: Yesterday was "fall-prep" day at the homestead, I got into the backyard and trimmed back the grape vines (which find their way into the rosebushes, the trees, the neighbor's yard) and most of the weeds, which tend to grow - well, like weeds.  I also shaved for the last time before I let my mustache and goatee grow back in for the autumnal equinox.  The only thing left to do is to waterproof the basement door, in case we get some kind of tropical storm or hurricane incident.  If not for that, I'd be tempted to put up our Christmas lights now, just to drive the neighbors crazy.

With just four actors, last night's film nearly caused another dead-end in the linking chain - Michael Caine links only to "Interstellar", which I'm not ready watch yet, and "Muppet Christmas Carol", which it's way too early for.  Jude Law links to "Anna Karenina" and "The Holiday", which are both scheduled as part of next February's romance line-up.  Fortunately, director Kenneth Branagh made a cameo appearance in yesterday's film, as an actor seen on a TV screen, and he has a larger role in today's film, which he also directed.  So the chain is saved once again - but where I go from here is another issue.  

I sort of wish I had allowed for linking between directors - certainly if I could have arranged films by director, like I did with Woody Allen's and Alfred Hitchcock's film, that could have made my life a lot easier.  That would have been another possible escape route whenever I hit a dead end in the actor linking - and not every director inserts himself into his films with cameos.

THE PLOT: Jack Ryan, as a young covert CIA analyst, uncovers a Russian plot to crash the U.S. economy with a terrorist attack.

FOLLOW-UP TO: "The Sum of All Fears" (Movie #695), "Patriot Games" (Movie #696), "Clear and Present Danger" (Movie #697)

AFTER:  This franchise's continuity is all messed up - Jack Ryan was older, played by Alec Baldwin, during the Cold War in "Hunt for Red October", then he was older still, played by Harrison Ford, during the age of Glasnost in "Patriot Games" and "Clear and Present Danger", then he got younger somehow when he was played by Ben Affleck in "The Sum of All Fears".  So he's sort of like the Benjamin Button of spy films. 

I know, I know, it's a reboot, so it makes more sense to compare Jack Ryan to James Bond, and this film thus becomes a sort of "Casino Royale" for the Tom Clancy franchise.  After all, this takes place in a post-9/11 world, and it shows the start of Jack Ryan's career in the CIA, after he goes through rehab and PT due to a helicopter accident.  But I thought I was all done with this franchise after watching the LAST reboot, and then they go ahead and reboot it again.  There ought to be some kind of limit on this sort of thing. 

Anyway, someone felt they had to make spy stuff cool again for the millennials, and those people don't want to see an aging dinosaur like Ford or Baldwin, they want to see someone in their 30's doing all the stunt stuff, unless of course they can sign Tom Cruise, who just doesn't seem to age.  As a matter of fact, this Jack Ryan film does have a sort of "Mission: Impossible" vibe to it, only without the rock-climbing and the false faces, so in the end it's like "Mission: Really Difficult But With a Little Bit of Effort I Think We Can Pull It Off". 

Ryan plays a CIA analyst, sent undercover into a Wall Street trading firm, because that's where he can see reams and reams of financial information, and his brain can pick out the patterns that indicate that a global superpower is totally going to buy low and sell high, and take advantage of the next terrorist scare to collapse the U.S. economy.  Of course, he knows the Russians are hiding something because he can plainly see that it isn't there.  Wait, what? 

At the same time, his girlfriend (who was his doctor during rehab) has resisted all efforts to marry him, because she's a modern woman who thinks that marriage is SO Cold War-era, keeps thinking that he's cheating on her because he's so secretive and distant.  He's got secrets, sure, but the CIA has very strict rules about who you can confide in, and for her own safety, she's got to stay out of his world.  Unless they're married, which means all bets are off - who cares if wives get taken hostage, as long as the villains leave our agent's girlfriends alone, am I right? 

So, his girlfriend Cathy naturally defies all logic and instead of meeting Jack in Paris as planned, she somehow arranges for the proper visas to visit Moscow on, like, four hours notice (not possible...) and surprises him right in the middle of his most dangerous operation yet, but don't worry, I'm sure she'll be perfectly safe, what could possibly go wrong? 

I was going to take the franchise to task and say, "Really?  We're STILL using Russia as the Evil Empire?  Shouldn't we be featuring the Middle East, or China trying to crash the U.S. economy via terrorism?"  Then I remembered all the events of last year with Putin and invading the Ukraine, and now I think the makers of this film got very lucky indeed, that Russian villains are back in style.  Arab terrorists are, like, SO 2011.   Still, it's very appropriate that I watch films like this around this time of year, if I hadn't gone to Atlantic City a couple of weeks ago, then this might have lined right up with 9/11.  Maybe that wouldn't have been appropriate, I don't know any more.  I'm within a week so I can at least allude to it, right?

There are a lot of loose ends in this one - like, what happened to the dog?  How did they repair the hotel room so quickly after the fight?  And don't even get me started on the police van...

Also starring Chris Pine (last seen in "Horrible Bosses 2"), Kevin Costner (last seen in "Play It to the Bone"), Keira Knightley (last seen in "Love Actually"), Colm Feore (last seen in "City of Angels"), Gemma Chan, Peter Andersson, Alec Utgoff, Seth Ayott, Matt Rippy (last seen in "The Monuments Men"), Nonso Anozie, with cameos from David Paymer, Mikhail Baryshnikov.

RATING: 5 out of 10 security codes

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