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Cold War heats up on screen

Posted By Drew Zahn On 01/19/2014 @ 11:10 pm In Diversions,Front Page,Reviews | No Comments

The Russians are back, and they’re declaring “economic war” on the United States!

Time is ticking, America is on the brink of another Great Depression, clandestine forces are about to execute a terrorist attack and a plot is in place destroy the dollar …

But wait.

I thought I was just describing the fictitious plot of the new film “Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit,” but suddenly … that description sounds a bit too real.

Of course in the real world, the Russians aren’t really behind all that. It’s more like a twisted combination of Russians, jihadists, Chinese financiers and the either deluded or devious communists in America’s halls of power.

But I digress. This is supposed to be a review of a movie. You know, “just a movie,” just “entertainment.”

And in this case, though I will regret admitting it, it really is just all in fun.

Just as a good joke must contain a hint of truth to truly be funny, “Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit” takes just a hint of real-world peril and spins it off into a fanciful and fun world of spies, secret operatives and unsuspecting heroes caught up in a web of international espionage.

As the character William Harper states, “This is geopolitics, not couples therapy.”

The movie itself follows former Marine Jack Ryan, who is recruited into an analyst role by a shadowy operation he believes is the CIA. But years later, when his analysis reveals a complicated Russian plot, he’s sent into the field untrained and unprepared because he’s simply the only person who can really understand what the Russians are up to.

Throw in a girlfriend who’s completely in the dark about his double life, a Russian baddy with a secret grudge and a thrilling, break-neck paced finale, and “Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit” stirs up a surprisingly clean spy thriller that’s little more than action, intrigue and fun.

I get criticized all the time in this column by those who claim, “It’s just a movie. Just entertainment. Don’t go looking for hidden meanings or biblical lessons.”

“Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit” is the reason I get that criticism, because sometimes – very rarely, but sometimes – it is just all about entertainment.

And while it’s no classic and largely forgettable fun, “Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit” is entertaining. And for once, it’s probably not worth it to go looking for much more meaning than that.

Content advisory:

  • “Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit,” rated PG-13, contains 15 profanities and obscenities, a few harsh.
  • The film has remarkably little sexuality, limited to a few kisses, an innuendo, a shirtless guy, a scene where two lovers wake up in bed together and a girl in a towel after a shower, revealing little more than bare back and shoulders.
  • The film does have some intense violence, including the usual spy thriller sniper shots, hand-to-hand combat and car chases. There’s also some heavier elements, including a threat of torture and a war scene where a character is wounded badly and seen with burned flesh.
  • The film has several religious references, including a Russian choral hymn in a church, a few scenes in churches with crosses and candles and an oath that ends with, “So help me God.” There’s also a code phrase based on the Bible’s Lamentations 2:2, which is quoted (out of context; it’s meant as a code). Finally, the film deliberately highlights Dearborn, Mich., as home to a Russian terrorist cell, even though Dearborn is known as one of nation’s most prominent Muslim communities. The juxtaposition is deliberate, but not really explained or clarified.

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