From Russia with hate

Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit

 One is more accustomed to seeing Kenneth Branagh and Keira Knightley in adaptations of Shakespeare or Jane Austen than espionage tales but they do quite nicely here. The film isn't based on any single Tom Clancy book but rather a mish-mash of various ones updated to suit the modern world. 
One might also might have imagined that the idea of having Russians as terrorists was more the preserve of James Bond movies or Cold War thrillers than a 2014 offering but they're unearthed in that guise again here, Branagh's dead-eyed performance hitting just the right note.
His accent isn't half bad either. And he also directs the movie.
Chris Pine is shaping up to be the new Matt Damon as the CIA analyst employed to spy on Branagh, a villainous Russian trying to crash the US economy and also launch a terrorist attack through his equally ruthless son.
Branagh’s character has a weakness for vodka and women. This is hardly an original plot device. Nor is Pine's ruse of having Knightley (his fiancé) distract Branagh over dinner one evening while he rifles frantically through his computer records.
Would a man as wily as Branagh really fall for this old trick? I don't think so, but his pump-action direction means the film still keeps you chewing your fingernails as he downloads the all-important info.  
The fact that Knightley doesn't know what Pine does until well on in the film gives it a True Lies vibe. There are also echoes of Arlington Road, and even Bernardo Bertolucci's Il Conformista in the forest scenes.
The film won't trouble the Oscar people for artistic virtuosity next month and I also found the romantic scenes between Pine and Knightley deflated the tension Branagh has worked so hard to build up.
Genre-wise, post-9/11 actioners are now about as plentiful as post-Pearl Harbour ones were in the 1940s. The jingoism may not be quite so blatant here but America is still casting itself as the White Knight saving us all from destruction.
In former times such a strain had military overtones but contemporary terrorism has meant that we are all, in a sense, protagonists. Which is why contemporary heroes don't usually wear uniforms any more, being dressed instead like someone you might pass in the street. Someone, indeed, who looks like Chris Pine.
Pine is supposed to age 10 years in the film but it looks more like 10 minutes. Putting him through his paces is Kevin Costner, playing one of those tired ‘I've seen it all’ type CIA vets that serve little purpose except to remind us that this bland actor hasn't quite been put out on grass yet – though he does little here to convince us he shouldn't be.

The 12A cert will alert you to the fact that the film has the expectable level of violence for this kind of thing. Pine gets thumped around enough to put the average mortal in intensive care but all he ends up with here is a little plaster on his face that makes canoodling with Ms Knightley just a tad awkward.

What a price to pay for your country.

Good **