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The Stupidity of Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit

Andrew Romano reviews all of the Jack Ryan films, and describes the plot of the newest one this way:

A Russian oligarch named Viktor Cherevin (played by Kenneth Branagh with a thick Boris Badenov accent and a tip of the cap to Laurence Olivier’s Christian Szell) plans to detonate a truck bomb on Wall Street and simultaneously sell off billions of American dollars, crashing the U.S. economy and ushering in a new world order with Russia on top. After more than half a decade of high unemployment—and the death of Osama bin Laden—we’re no longer so afraid of Al Qaeda; economic catastrophe and American decline frighten us more.

If the plots of Jack Ryan films are reliable indications of modern American preoccupations and concerns, it should worry us that they have been getting increasingly implausible and ludicrous as time goes by. The Sum of All Fears may be terrible, but at least it describes a nightmare scenario that makes a minimum amount of sense. A plot by an oligarch to use currency trading to usher in Russian world domination? It sounds so stupid that even the producers of the worst James Bond movies would have rejected it for being too unrealistic. One reviewer has described the story as “giddily preposterous,” which must be better than being merely preposterous. That in itself tells us something about the gap between reality and the alarmist/declinist mentality behind such stories: the alarmists can’t even come up with likely disaster scenarios with which to frighten the public.

What’s more, as you can already tell, this Jack Ryan movie isn’t even based on a Clancy novel. The Boston Globe‘s Mark Feeney explains:

As it happens, “Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit” isn’t adapted from any of the novels. In fact, it didn’t originate as a Jack Ryan story. Adam Cozad’s original script (he now shares writing credit with David Koepp) was called “Dubai.” Now it’s mostly set in Moscow, with stops along the way in London, Afghanistan, Washington, D.C., New York, and (sure, why not) Dearborn, Mich. 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.

It seems that it’s even worse than that. Jim Hoft notes that the plot also involves a gratuitous swipe at Orthodox Christians:

Then, as the movie develops you discover the enemies who are set on blowing up New York City are Christians from Russia who get their orders from the local Orthodox priest in Deerborn, Michigan.

about the author

Daniel Larison is a senior editor at TAC, where he also keeps a solo blog. He has been published in the New York Times Book Review, Dallas Morning News, World Politics Review, Politico Magazine, Orthodox Life, Front Porch Republic, The American Scene, and Culture11, and was a columnist for The Week. He holds a PhD in history from the University of Chicago, and resides in Lancaster, PA. Follow him on Twitter.

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