Updated: Sep 11, 2018
4K ULTRA HD REVIEW / FRAME SHOTS
“JACK RYAN: SHADOW RECRUIT”
4K Ultra HD, Blu-ray, Digital copy; 2014, PG-13 for sequences of violence and intense action and brief strong language; streaming via Amazon Video, FandangoNOW (4K), Google Play, iTunes (4K, Dolby Vision), Vudu (4K, Dolby Vision), YouTube
Best extra: Commentary with director Kenneth Branagh and producer Lorenzo di Bonaventura featured on the 4K disc
"SHADOW RECRUIT" was the last big-screen incarnation of Tom Clancy's character Jack Ryan. Clancy wrote nine novels featuring Ryan; five of them have been produced as films. Ryan has been portrayed by Alec Baldwin in "The Hunt for Red October" (1990), Harrison Ford in "Patriot Games" (1992) and "Clear and Present Danger" (1994), and, finally, by a youthful Ben Affleck in "The Sum of All Fears" (2002). Fast-forward 12 years and Ryan returns with Chris Pine (“Star Trek”) at the helm.
On Friday, Amazon’s eight-part “Jack Ryan” Prime TV series premieres with John Krasinski (“A Quiet Place,” “The Office” TV series) as CIA analyst Jack Ryan. Hopefully, it will be a good one.
What has sets Jack Ryan apart from other literary spy characters such as Bond and Bourne? Simply Ryan is a regular guy, who prefers to sit at a desk analyzing data rather than the action-hero stereotype.
"He’s is a very relatable character. It's the extraordinary things that he does in those environments that are interesting." ― Production designer Andrew Laws
"Shadow Recruit's" journey began nearly a decade ago when Harrison Ford signed on reviving the title role. After nearly a year and a half of script revisions and juggling schedules, Harrison bowed out to due to other work obligations. Mace Neufeld, the producer of the franchise, recalls, "[We were] sitting alone with the Ryan character and nobody to play it or write it."
Producers decided to tell the tale of Ryan's recruitment into the CIA for a fresh perspective on the character. Unlike the previous films, "Shadow Recruit" is not based on any particular book by Clancy. "One advantage of the film not being based on a book is that we were able to take parts of the real legend of Jack Ryan that you couldn't have done if we were doing a single book… By telling the back-story of Ryan, we could pick and choose things from the body of Clancy's works as opposed to a single book," producer Lorenzo di Bonaventura says.
Director Kenneth Branagh opens the film with Ryan (Chris Pine) joining the Marine Corps after the terrorist attacks of 9/11. While serving in Afghanistan, he is wounded and forced to undergo intense rehabilitation. At the clinic, he meets medical student, Cathy (Keira Knightley) – his final love interest. A few years later, Ryan is now a CIA operative, recruited by Thomas Harper (Kevin Costner). Working on Wall Street to uncover sources of terrorist funding, he unearths suspicious transactions in an international business partner and traces the source to Russian financial mogul, Viktor Cherevin (Branagh). Dispatched to Moscow, Ryan unravels a sinister plot to undermine the financial security of the United States.
Paramount outfitted "Shadow Recruit" with a comprehensive collection of extra features. The commentary by Branagh and di Bonaventura is quite good covering everything you'd ever want to know about the production, characters, filming, and locations, with plenty of insight into the film.
It opens when a young Jack Ryan is startled from a nap on the grounds of the London School of Economics. He hears the chatter of students talking. Branagh decides to not have a single word of dialogue from his star at first as he walks toward a building. Then Ryan says, “What’s going on?” The director compares it to his previous work on Shakespeare’s “Hamlet.” “Great art starts with simple questions. The first line in “Hamlet” is “Who’s there?”
Ryan sees a number of students surrounding a TV screen, watching the Twin Towers up in smoke and the audio voice of UK TV News reporter Kirsty Young talking to her husband Nick Jones, who’s in NYC on the day of the great tragedy. “That in itself has a reality factor,” says Branagh.
“Coming in at 9/11 is a very tricky and very emotional thing, and watching audiences they really embraced it,” says di Bonaventura. “For many it was a pivotal moment in a decision to join the army, or join the military, people who might not otherwise have done so,” says Branagh.
Deleted and extended scenes also contain optional commentary.
Four featurettes on the enclosed Blu-ray pay homage to the Ryan brand starting with "Jack Ryan: The Smartest Guy in the Room," a tribute to the various portrayals from Baldwin to Pine. Additionally, it has interviews with the cast and crew, and the challenges of stepping away from a specific book. "Sir Kenneth Branagh: The Tsar of Shadow Recruit" focuses on the film's director and his role as the main villain. "Jack Ryan: A Thinking Man of Action" covers set pieces and construction. Finally, "Old Enemies Return" is an insightful look at the American-Russian relationship and how it affects the world we live in today.
Branagh and cinematographer Haris Zambarloukos (“Thor,” “Murder on the Orient Express”) captured “Shadow Recruit” mostly on 35mm film, but sadly it was mastered in 2K and then upconverted to 4K for this presentation. The imagery (2.39:1 aspect ratio) still exposes a high level of natural film grain for a refined cinematic experience, while the overall clarity is quite good for close-ups a notch or two better than the previous Blu-ray.
The HDR/Dolby Vision toning is where it excels, with strong and bold blacks, bright and controlled highlights and a warm color palette that radiates from facial toning to an abundance of earth shading colors of rich blues and greens.
The 4K includes the eight-channel DTS-HD soundtrack, which provides a lively experience with spraying gunfire, deep bassy explosions, and the organic electronic score from Scottish composer Patrick Doyle, who's scored majority of Branagh's films starting with "Henry V," "Dead Again," "Hamlet," "Much Ado About Nothing," "Mary Shelley's Frankenstein," "Sleuth, "Thor," "Cinderella," and the recent "Murder on the Orient Express."
― Stacey Verblaauw and Bill Kelley III, High-Def Watch producer