or Generic Spy Action Hero
Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit Blu-ray Review
Shadow Recruit is a competent albeit generic spy thriller rebooting the Jack Ryan legacy in name only, whilst honing its standard espionage beats with that now-mandatory Bourne/Bond vibe, and forgetting in the process that Ryan's everyman CIA analyst was anything but a superspy.Whilst Branagh is more than capable of staging action (Thor), and Pine a strong enough lead for any action-adventure, they lost sight on everything that made Ryan, Ryan. They produced this clean-cut, skillfully-edited and generally well-put-together thriller which ostensibly tells the backstory to a character some will know well, but which pays no heed whatsoever to the things that made him such an atypical hero in the first place, instead folding the whole thing into a generic spy actioner world which offers little to nothing new to those familiar with the territory.
Still, for all the faults noted, there's no denying that Shadow Recruit is entertaining and diverting, even if it sometimes feels fitfully so. Everybody does their jobs well – Pine is likeable, Knightley is suitably endearing, Costner is reliably stoic and Branagh occasionally effuses menace. The action too, is, as aforementioned, well-staged, with one particular chase proving effective, and a couple of twists capable of genuinely blind-siding you.But the fatal error that takes this film down a point for me is the fact that it could be the origin story of any spy. It could be a prequel tale about Ethan Hunt's recruitment in the early Mission: Impossible years. Jack Ryan is painted as little more than a clumsier, frequently in-over-his-head, Bond variation. Gone are almost any of the trademarks of Clancy's most popular hero, who could think his way out of any situation, and solve any puzzle with intellect and resourcefulness; gone is the upstanding patriot who would do the right thing no matter if that meant facing off against the President of the United States. Enter 2014’s Jack Ryan, Mr. Just-Another-Spy.
If they want to be respectful to Clancy's legacy, they're going to have to improve on this one with Ryan's next outing. In the meantime, there's still hope for the Tom Hardy / Kevin Costner pairing in the spin-off Without Remorse.
Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit Blu-ray Picture QualityJack Ryan: Shadow Recruit hits UK Region Free Blu-ray complete with a stunning 1080p/AVC-encoded High Definition video presentation in the movie’s original theatrical aspect ratio of 2.4:1 widescreen. Detail is astounding, boasting stunning clarity that impresses at every turn, showcasing facial close-ups, skin textures, clothing weaves and background flourishes with the utmost attention to detail. Mid- and longer-range shots still provide superior images, with barely a slip over the entire runtime and only the vaguest hint of totally forgivable softness creeping into a couple of shots.
Jack Ryan might not have been dealt justice with this watered-down origin story, but this is undoubtedly the best-looking outing that he has ever had.
The colour scheme is well represented, offering up a broad array of tones in an authentic fashion, whilst contrast is pushed slightly, but only insofar as the style of the filming dictates (similarly, the look is suitably filmic thanks to a fine layer of grain). Black levels are strong and rich, allowing for deep night sequences which boast excellent shadow detail. Demo quality through and through, this is a fabulous reference presentation.
Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit Blu-ray Sound QualityThe accompanying DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 track is every bit as impressive, a stomping lossless mix that boasts both precision and potency, crafting an engaging, immersive experience that makes the most out of the lacklustre material. Dialogue transcends the rest of the elements on offer, remaining crystal clear and coherent throughout, largely given precedence over the frontal array and dominating the mix where appropriate.
Precision and potency leave this one of the best audio mixes so far this year.
Effects are staggeringly well-observed, with a rich and finely-tuned soundscape which has been designed to observe the tiniest of atmospheric elements as well as relish the more thunderous components. From gunshots to car and even helicopter crashes, the surrounds are expertly utilised and the LFE channel given voice throughout the proceedings, but the quieter stealth moments boast almost equally impressive observational touches, and the various settings and setpieces help contribute towards a consistently colourful atmosphere. The score is fairly nondescript and forgettable, but offers further material which the surrounds and LFE channel wield engagingly. All in all, another demo and reference offering.
Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit Blu-ray ExtrasThe Director and Producer Commentary sees Branagh lead the way and discuss the pre-production plot construction, the locations and sets, the characters and performances, and the filming and the score, providing a welcome accompaniment that offers plenty of background insight for those who enjoyed the feature.
Despite mediocre sentiments about the movie itself, the disc continues to impress on the extras front, including everything you could possibly want.
In terms of Featurettes, Jack Ryan: The Smartest Guy in the Room spends the best part of a quarter of an hour looking into reinventing and rebooting the character and franchise; Sir Kenneth Branagh: The Tsar of Shadow Recruit spends 10 minutes looking behind Branagh’s dual-input as director and antagonist; Jack Ryan: A Thinking Man of Action adds 5 minutes of dissection into several key action sequences; and Old Enemies Return spends a hefty 21 minutes focussing on the presentation of Russians as villains, even so long after the Cold War ended. The Extras are rounded off by a selection of Deleted and Extended Scenes, totalling 5 extra minutes, and including an Alternate Ending.
Is Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit Blu-ray Worth BuyingThe best thing about Shadow Recruit is that, if capitalised upon, it may well lead to a better sequel, which isn’t bogged-down with unnecessarily rebooting the character in the now-formulaic Jack Ryan-Begins fashion, and can instead develop the traits that we all know and love from the books, hopefully within a more interesting political universe too.
They have the ingredients needed for a decent sequel, but only if they leave generic spy territory and get back to Tom Clancy's Jack Ryan.
This Region Free UK Blu-ray boasts exceptional video and audio as well as a wealth of extras, making it a must-have purchase for fans of the film, and a decent addition for Jack Ryan / Tom Clancy completists who are prepared to include this entry in their collection in the hope that the next one will make its existence more justifiable.
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