Director: Denis Villeneuve
Starring: Ryan Gosling, Harrison Ford, Ana de Armas, Robin Wright, Sylvia Hoeks, Jared Leto
The last few years have seen a number of sequels to long dormant film series: Star Wars: The Force Awakens, Creed, Jurassic World. Denis Villeneuve’s Blade Runner 2049 is something quite different. Ridley Scott’s Blade Runner, based on Philip K. Dick’s Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep, was not a franchise movie. It was not even a box office success. Blade Runner is a cult classic which earned more mainstream recognition over a period of decades, thanks to various re-cuts and re-releases in the ancillary market (specifically the 1992 Director’s Cut and the 2004 Final Cut). While the film had a very cool neo-noir aesthetic and unique sound thanks to Vangelis’ score, the appeal of Blade Runner is largely the ideas it explores. All of this makes returning to the property 35 years down the track a far more interesting challenge than simply rebooting or reviving a proven franchise. Continue reading
Director: J.J. Abrams
Starring: Daisy Ridley, John Boyega, Harrison Ford, Adam Driver, Oscar Isaac, Domhnall Gleeson, Peter Mayhew, Carrie Fisher, Mark Hamill
Black screen. Blue lettering. “A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away…” and then BANG! With the blast of that iconic fanfare and the crawling text, we are once again away. 32 years after we saw Luke, Han and Leia finally defeat Darth Vader and the Empire in Return of the Jedi these iconic characters return to the big screen in Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens. This most revered of franchises, now under the control of Disney, has been handed on from its creator, George Lucas, to writer-director J.J. Abrams. Abrams showed with Star Trek in 2009 that he has a gift for rebooting storied science-fiction franchises, but this is another level entirely. But faced with the near impossible burden of audience and industry expectations – this is, after all, a movie which anything less than becoming the highest grossing film of all time will seemingly be an underperformance – Abrams and his team have delivered.
Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill), the last Jedi knight, has vanished. In his absence a new dark power, the First Order, has risen from the ashes of the Empire. Continue reading
Recently Warner Brothers and Guy Ritchie made the somewhat peculiar decision to adapt the 1960s television series The Man from U.N.C.L.E. to the big screen (read my review here). While Ritchie’s film wasn’t exactly a triumph, there have been a number of TV remakes which have been really good. Of course, there are also plenty which have been terrible (The Flintstones, The Smurfs, Lost in Space), but we are going to try and keep it positive here and look at six of the best TV remakes. To clarify, this is a list of the best TV remakes not just movies that have come from television shows. So I have chosen not to consider movies which feature the same cast as the television series which has disqualified films like The Naked Gun, all of the Muppets movies, Serenity, and films which originated as Saturday Night Live sketches like The Blues Brothers and Wayne’s World. So let’s jump in… Continue reading
Director: Kenneth Branagh
Starring: Chris Pine, Kevin Costner, Keira Knightley, Kenneth Branagh
It has been over a decade since Tom Clancy’s Jack Ryan, the hero of The Hunt for Red October, Patriot Games, Clear and Present Danger and The Sum of All Fears and the man who is to financial analysts what Indiana Jones is to archaeologists, last appeared on our screen. So therefore it is time for a reboot and that is exactly what we get in Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit.
As reboots are want to do, Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit takes us back to the beginning for an origins story. After being badly injured in a helicopter attack while serving in Afghanistan, Jack Ryan is recruited by the CIA to work covertly as a financial analyst on Wall Street. There he uncovers a Russian plot to crash the US economy with a terrorist attack. So Ryan finds himself upgraded to operational status and on his way to Moscow to try and work out when and where this attack is going to occur before it’s too late.
Clancy wrote Jack Ryan as a Cold War hero, but Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit – the first Ryan film not to be directly based on a Clancy novel – recreates him as a hero for the post-9/11 world. It is the attacks on the World Trade Center which compels the young Ryan to abandon his PhD study in London and join the Marines. While in keeping with Clancy’s novels the antagonists in the film are from Russia, it prefers to play off contemporary fears of terrorism and economic meltdown rather than old Cold War tensions.
Having previously been played by Alec Baldwin, Harrison Ford and Ben Affleck, it is Chris Pine’s turn to step into the role. However, despite this being the fifth Ryan film, audiences don’t have the same clear expectations of the character as they do for someone like a James Bond, so the pressure on Pine stepping into the role is not as intense. That said, he does a good job. Unlike his brash, impulsive Captain Kirk, Pine imbues his intellectually brilliant Ryan with a certain vulnerability that is fitting of an agent at the beginning of his career who is not yet battle-hardened.
Pine is surrounded by an impressive supporting cast. Kevin Costner continues his recent career resurgence as a quality supporting actor in his role as the stoic William Harper, the CIA agent who recruits Ryan. As Ryan’s girlfriend, Keira Knightley gets slightly more to work with than the usual love interest character, with some of the scenes between the two of them being quite touching. Kenneth Branagh, who is also directing here, makes for a steely villain as the Russian Viktor Cherevin.
Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit largely follows the spy thriller playbook established by the James Bond and, more recently, Jason Bourne franchises. In this globetrotting film we move between London, New York and Moscow, and are given regular action sequences, whether helicopter attacks, hand-to-hand combat or car chases. However, the quick cutting shaky-cam used in the action scenes does take audience disorientation to a new level.
While Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit is a contemporary reboot engaging with contemporary concerns there is something wonderfully old-fashioned about it. It is a classic espionage film. It is still Americans against Russians, it still comes down a race against a ticking time bomb, and it is still quite a lot of fun.
Rating – ★★★☆
Review by Duncan McLean