Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit keeps it fast-paced

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Starring Chris Pine, Keira Knightley, and Kevin Costner. Rated PG. Now playing

Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit falls just short of being quite good. Director and costar Kenneth Branagh does his best to put a fresh coat of paint on the Ryan series. But, for all it’s zip, it can’t help coming across as a slightly paler version of the Bourne franchaise.

Based on the character created by Tom Clancy, the title role has always had a fair amount of elasticity. In the past, Ryan has been portrayed by Alec Baldwin, Harrison Ford, and Ben Affleck. This time around the brainy CIA operative is played by Star Trek’s Chris Pine. Throwing himself into the role with a winning mixture of charm and physicality, he’s easily the best thing in the mix.

The screenwriters—including veteran David Koepp—start from scratch here. We first see Ryan as a student at the London School of Economics. Deeply affected by the events surrounding 9/11, he joins the Marines. When the injuries sustained in a helicopter crash force him to learn how to walk again, he falls for a young medical student (Keira Knightley, who seems vaguely uncomfortable sporting a flat American accent).

Ryan’s impressive credentials catch the eye of CIA recruiter Thomas Harper (Kevin Costner, who handles his supporting role with an understated ease). Harper convinces Jack that his knowledge as a financial analyst can be put to good use exposing terrorists. Things heat up when Ryan stumbles onto a plot to overthrow the American government by crippling the economy just before launching a major terrorist attack. The key? An evil Russian financier (Branagh, showing an admirable sense of restraint).

It’s all pretty far-fetched. But Branagh keeps things moving fast enough that we barely notice the potholes. Not a bad effort at all. Just nothing we haven’t see done better before.

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