When it comes to reviews of "Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit," superlatives are in short supply. Most movie critics agree that the reboot of the Tom Clancy action franchise, starring Chris Pine and directed by Kenneth Branagh, is competent — or "serviceable," or "workmanlike," or even "fairly diverting" — but not particularly compelling.
The Times' Kenneth Turan writes that compared to previous films in the franchise (such as "The Hunt for Red October" and "Patriot Games"), "as well as the modern gold standard of the genre as represented by the 'Bourne' epics, 'Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit' comes off as a reasonable facsimile, serviceable but not compelling, something that could pass for the real thing if you're not looking too hard."
Pine is "a capable actor" and "acceptable in this latest rebooting," though he lacks the gravitas of co-star Kevin Costner. Branagh pulls double duty and is "excellent" in his role as a shady Russian plutocrat, but ultimately "there is no shaking the feeling that Branagh and his cast are a kind of an espionage film B team, capable of mild diversion but nothing more."
The New York Times's A.O. Scott says much of the film is formulaic and little of it is surprising: "Jaws clench, tempers explode, credits roll." But at least it's not dull, he writes, adding, "'Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit' is a competently made, moderately diverting variation on a genre standard."
Pine, for his part, "is a naturally appealing screen presence who conveys the kind of old-fashioned, homespun decency that doesn’t make you feel as if you’re being gamed," and "although Mr. Branagh’s performance is best classified as twirled-mustache generic, the other performances are generally likable."
The Boston Globe's Mark Feeney notes that "Shadow Recruit" isn't based on a Clancy novel but was thoroughly reworked from a script for a movie called "Dubai." Feeney writes, "Maybe all those alterations are why the movie feels so generic, in its high-gloss, big-budget way. “Jack Ryan” is slick, loud, assured, overplotted (way overplotted), fairly diverting, and pretty much empty."
Michael Phillips of the Chicago Tribune calls the film "workmanlike" and adds, echoing Turan, " 'Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit' has plenty of action, almost all of it staged and edited in the manner of a Paul Greengrass "Bourne" movie (hand-held frenzy, without the Greengrass spatial clarity)."
Though the film is "well acted up and down," Phillips says, it "feels caught halfway between being an idiotic spy picture for adolescents, and a reasonably grown-up thriller for reasonably grown-up grown-ups. The latter isn't the target demographic for the average franchise re-launch. But that's what the film is, at heart: an average franchise re-launch."