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Shadow Man

Shadow Recruit almost got things right. This 2014 release saw Russians breaking America down financially, not politically. Shadow Recruit has jitters for another financial collapse, not long after a messy recovery from recession; it’s only natural the scripts floats on those real world fears.

Also, Shadow Recruit is almost a decent thriller. Although steeped in eye-rolling patriotism, Jack Ryan (Chris Pine) makes for a plausible, intelligent hero. The reboot casts him as a hyper-smart banker type, intertwined with the CIA, setting up a franchise had sour box office performance not crashed those hopes. There’s slight irony in Shadow Recruit failing to find financial footing.

Outside of Ryan, Shadow Recruit clings tightly to cliché. A nighttime hacking sequence involves stop watches, USB transfers, elevators, and messy system UIs. Even b-level thrillers won’t sink to so many simultaneous cliches. The climax sees Ryan doing a motorcycle stunt, leading to a dopey brawl amid rushing water, all to stop a bomb. Thankfully, the IRS isn’t this fervent in tracking down audits.

There’s Keira Knightley, the hopeless, worried fiancee, eventually turned damsel. She’s a prop to set up the third act, a tick of character intellect washed away while abused by Shadow Recruit’s villain (Kenneth Branagh). All she can do is scream, the limit for women in this series. All Ryan can do is shout, plead, and punch in a hyper-masculine, all-American hero way.

By design, Shadow Recruit wants people leaving theaters with smiles; good people like Ryan will save us from ruin

It’s odd Shadow Recruit involves no politicians. Co-writers David Koepp and Adam Cozed must assume audiences had enough politicians by 2014; they were probably right. Instead, it’s a race to stop a meltdown of money systems, all done without intervention from Congress or the White House. This is a story of on-the-ground heroes, those who take the call and tough it out.

Of the films in this series, the most interesting deal with the tensions of convincing those in power they’re soon to lose that power. That’s what Jack Ryan does best. Here, a toddler equivalent in the CIA, Ryan is on his own. His mentor, played by Kevin Costner, prods Ryan along. Oh, and Costner steals a dog; Shadow Recruit needs closure on the canine situation.

What’s left sans a worried President or pressured officials is a typical, sanguine thriller. By design, Shadow Recruit wants people leaving theaters with smiles; good people like Ryan will save us from ruin, and America is an impenetrable rock because of it. If only that were true. Turns out, the Ryans of the world can’t stop a Facebook meme at election time.


The lone 2K finish of Paramount’s Jack Ryan collection, Shadow Recruit doesn’t have the natural firmness present in prior films. That said, it’s a minimal loss. High-grade texture inhabits all close-ups. Shots of Moscow and other cities resolve gorgeously. It’s good enough to trick an eye not yet used to 4K.

Part of that is also the HDR pass, the heaviest dose of the Jack Ryan Collection on UHD. Hearty brightness weighs on the imagery. Contrast pushes hard, with deep highlights adding energy to even the driest dialog scenes. Likewise, black levels dodge crush while lifting Shadow Recruit’s depth. A strong sense of dimension is always present.

While initially dense in color, flesh tones will fall to a pasty hue. Paramount’s Mission Impossible 4K transfers suffered similarly. Otherwise, Shadow Recruit is an attractive package, carrying primaries proud with standout greens. While nighttime shots use thick teal, the revitalized deep color pass is a standout.

Shot on a mixture of film and digital, grain structure is a consistent presence. Paramount’s encode generally handles this well. Only a few shots devolve into definite noise. Watch as Branagh welcomes Ryan into the restaurant; that’s certainly not grain, but also an anomaly in an otherwise well managed effort.


The first disc in the Jack Ryan Collection to ditch TrueHD, this one makes use of DTS-HD and in 7.1 form. Hearty dynamic range is almost deafening as Ryan’s helicopter is attacked at the outset. While the rotors create ambiance inside the vehicle, soon there’s a takeover of sound as the explosion lands in the low-end. Ear-piercing highs at reference volume sell the chaos of this moment.

Shadow Recruit’s sound design likes to surprise. It’s active, with gunfire and car chases passing through the soundfield convincingly. Various chase scenes make use of the full soundstage, including those extra rears. They unexpectedly step in for ambient help too, from airports to a theater.


Actor/director Kenneth Branagh and producer Lorenzo di Bonaventura combine forces for a commentary track (shared on the UHD), with Smartest Guy in the Room setting up the rest of these featurettes. With 13-minutes to work, Smartest sets up the Ryan character through his film-based history with a focus on Pine (of course). The Tsar of Shadow Recruit unfortunately follows, and sinks to the level of promo in celebration of Branagh.

A Thinking Man of Action is a routine peering into action/stunt work and Old Enemies Return looks into the reasoning for using Russians as the villains. Some deleted scenes (five minutes worth) with an optional commentary end the Blu-ray of Shadow Recruit.

Full disclosure: This Blu-ray was provided to us for review. This has not affected the editorial process. For information on how we handle review material, please visit our about us page to learn more.

Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit
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Shadow Recruit aims to kick off a franchise, but the routine thriller tropes and hokey action scenes sink plans for this reboot.

User Review
3 (1 vote)

The 15 unaltered images below represent the Blu-ray. For an additional 20 Shadow Recruit screenshots, early access to all screens (plus the 15,000+ already in our library), 50+ exclusive 4K UHD reviews, and more, support us on Patreon.

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