|Image courtesy of Paramount Pictures.|
The film is set in the present and recent past, rather than taking place many years before "The Hunt for Red October" or "Patriot Games," for example, took place. The reason I mention this is because Ryan is played by Chris Pine, who is obviously a bit younger than Harrison Ford and various other actors who have played the character in the past. The film reboots the series in the sense that Ryan is being recruited into the CIA in the present and those past films/books did not necessarily exist.
The one element that should feel familiar is the Cold War paranoia that could be found in the previous entries in the series. This new film's heavy is a Russian supervillain played by Branagh, whose nefarious plot is to bring down the U.S. economy through both a terrorist attack and an insider trading move.
Pine is obviously the straight man in that his character is stoic almost to the point of being wooden, which is not a criticism of the actor's performance, but rather a reflection on how his character was written. Branagh, on the other hand, gets to chew the scenery and deliver all the goods typically expected from an over-the-top villain. Keira Knightley is, unfortunately, mostly wasted as Ryan's girlfriend, while Kevin Costner is well-utilized as his mentor.
The film opens with Ryan watching the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001 on a television screen, which prompts him to head to Afghanistan, where he is seriously wounded. Later, he will get his own opportunity to thwart a massive terrorist attack on - you guessed it - New York City. However, the means through which Ryan puts the pieces together about the attack are questionable, at best.
For a film of this type, "Shadow Recruit" is no groundbreaker. It's pretty by-the-book, in fact. This is not exactly a bad thing, though, as the film is pretty entertaining, swiftly paced and well-shot, despite also often being completely ludicrous. For a film of this genre, it's a pretty decent entry.