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Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit

Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit

I admire mainstream films where people are shown behaving in ways you can learn from, draw strength from. In the "Hobbit," one example is my favorite part of the film. After Thorin declares that Bilbo took advantage of being left all alone to leave for home, Bilbo is shown ruminating over what Thorin just accused him of; and, after cancelling his invisibility and becoming visible to the company, offers an inspiring, considered reply. First of course he responds warmly to the dwarves' cheering his return, but after Thorin asks/presses him on why he indeed did come back, he acknowledges Thorin's cause to doubt him -- his love of his home is such, he realizes, that it's appropriate for those forlorn of one to gauge he'd eventually flee for his like-sake at some point -- but also shows him as understanding that having long known a home attractive enough to bait one back is also what leant him the well-being to ultimately go without a bit longer, so to help those destitute of knowing this bliss. With this reply, he's fair to himself, and to his antagonist. Both gave one another something so that afterwards "they wouldn't be the same," however much it really was Bilbo who lead the way.

I admire how Kirk in the new Star Trek films, while wholly convincing as a captain, someone appropriately at the helm, can seem respectful when his own authority is being breached by something arisen that possibly deserves attention at that point more than he does; something that might actually be tethering out an alternative action with enough momentum and enough to it that he will end up seeing sense in just obliging it.  He can stop himself, when something maybe more relevant and interesting is asserting itself, which will cue more overall and perhaps more multidimensional development. In "Into Darkness," Kirk does better when, rather than aggressively lead an attack, his mood shifts to just watching and taking in Khan. In the battle with the Klingons, Kirk stopping to just take in the incredible destructive wrath Khan was wrecking is him sort of recognizing that something so unaccounted for is taking place he might be better off forgoing his own involvement with the melee to let Khan handle it -- amidst the great surge of stimuli, he still discerned Khan's seeming to have an ability like a chess-master to see the outcome twenty moves ahead, so his own initiative has been instantly supplanted to maybe just nuisance. And with this, he reinforces the part of him which would stop his just being a pawn with a rank. When both he and Khan are about to project themselves through space, Kirk, sensing Khan's percipience bespeaking more leadership than whatever commands he was forcing over Khan's own, reacts showing he understands his wisest play is again going to be to watch and consider -- follow, not just aggress and assert. And with this respect and deference, by someone who isn't being submissive but just respectful to what has charismatically arisen to foreground, he isn't in the way when Khan cuts a clear path straight to the bridge, and maybe prompts Khan into forgetting that one of his temporarily assumed pieces has maybe let themselves go temporarily pawn to draw authority to stop being mesmerized by him and when due, take him down.

Kirk seems to realize in ways many of us might not be familiar with, that, if you're up to it, if you forgo the ostensible true warrior's mindset, which is actuality messed up, bipolar -- one mindset for battle (controlled rage), another for public life (often depression) -- for one always attenuated to human emotions -- even midst or just before battle -- you're better off for it. His norm is not to switch, which is why his friends never forgo their faith he'll resolve out the intense anger he felt still just hours after his mentor was assassinated, especially if offered feedback and help. He gets the prompt from Scotty, then from Spock, and then just before descending to Kronos he resolves into a still-focused but now recognizable self. And on the descent down, as soon as he gets that Uhura and Spock are building out of their parley the momentum for a fight, he doesn't squelch it but rather agrees to give it its time, as if relenting because he's open to how much any human endeavour really is served by resolving too quickly into a game face. 

Something along these lines may explain his lassitude to McCoy's continuing his flirting with Dr. Marcus, after he had reminded him "he's not there to flirt," as well. You have to focus; but anytime you've absented yourself of a multivalent emotional response may just be your ignoring good advice to charge down a war -- something bespeaking madness, not purpose. Khan countenances Spock's argument that intellect is needed for a fight by arguing that that alone isn't enough -- you need savagery, something Spock later displays in his end-fight with him by breaking his bones. Implicit in how Kirk behaves is the suggestion, at least, that bringing all the human along might be even better. When you countenance him, not just vs. Spock and Khan but with Admiral Marcus, who won't relent out of battle-think even when his daughter is draining her heart before him to plead him into empathy, he's a provocative, maybe-right, interesting example.

Then you go to mainstream films where there's barely anything to prevent you from thinking it amounts but to sop for the insecure, with no prompts, at all, to entice people to any tingling-slight bettering. "Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit," unfortunately comes very close to this. Truly, the only thing that almost lifts a moment of the film to standing strangely tall amidst the unified insensate is Viktor Cherevin's admonishing Ryan's wife not to waste time with chit chat but to talk truth. Let me be clear, this is not a moment which quite reminds you that any situation driven by purpose, where all you're as an audience member have been prompted to focus on is how effectively someone's accomplishing their ventured goal -- in this case, her trying to put on sufficient show, to charm him, and thereby buy scads of time for her husband --  need be trumped by all the vagaries that might be aroused in the playing out, each tempting something in those involved to perhaps lend latitude to and explore rather than resolve themselves against. But there is some tease that in her attacking him about his advanced liver cancer in reply to his admonishing her to talk truth, she's just adventured out of the ascertained into something wild and adventurous. 

Outside of this, what have we … a spy who isn't necessarily amazing in battle but who has some trump card that many, many times is shown daunting people -- here a PhD, and some few words of Russian -- which is for all the geeks out there who want to believe their marginal selves still contain greatness. "You're no Jack Ryan" … don't kid yourself: he's fundamentally everyman built to make pretty much anything you count yourself notable at as the decisive factor. You're good at an iPad game -- banal, but truly, good enough. The film is about tamping down yourself but with a decisive edge: you come out of it that much more a dull can of spinach espying your "surprise" quality of magic. 


  1. Though the character of Jack Ryan may not be perfectly-written he's charming enough to work in his own franchise, if he at all gets that opportunity to. Good review Patrick.

  2. Hey Dan O. I of course noticed and appreciated. And I agree … I have no problem if Pine and Knightly want to try this on again. Sometimes afterwards I realize I chastened more than my recollection showed I actually appreciated.


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