Much has changed since moviegoers last saw the action-prone CIA analyst Jack Ryan. Played by Alec Baldwin and Harrison Ford in the 1990s, then by Ben Affleck in 2002, Ryan kept pace with the world's ever-evolving villains: Soviet Russians, Irish militants, Colombian cartels. He's back, played by a fresh-faced Chris Pine ("Star Trek") in the reboot "Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit." The question is, who are the villains now?
In the real world, there are plenty to choose from. "Jack Ryan," directed by Kenneth Branagh, opens with our hero at the London School of Economics, where a broadcast of the 9/11 attacks convinces him to join the Marines. A missile ends Ryan's service, though it also results in a romance with his physical therapist, Cathy Muller (Keira Knightley). When the CIA spook Thomas Harper (Kevin Costner, cool and sardonic) comes calling, Ryan balks at joining an agency known for waterboarding. But Harper dangles a desk job: an undercover financial whiz on Wall Street.
The Middle East, the intelligence community, the financial sector -- of all the places to ferret out evildoers, would you believe that "Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit" goes back to the well of good old Russia? And not the modern country, but a 1984 version, where the Prime Minister (Mikhail Baryshnikov, no less) conspires with the ruthless tycoon Viktor Cherevin (Branagh himself) to bomb America and crash its economy. "We will avenge our Mother Russia," Cherevin hisses. "America will bleed!"
Is any contemporary viewer interested in this tattered Cold War document? Everything about "Jack Ryan" feels woefully dated, from Branagh's Bond-style villain to the routine script by Adam Cozad and David Koepp (not based on any Clancy novel). After the moral ambiguities of "Zero Dark Thirty" and the expanded global perspective of "Captain Phillips," the safe retreat of "Jack Ryan" into yesterday's bomb bunker seems beneath even an escapist thriller.
Pine brings a welcome boyishness and idealism to Ryan, but he's clobbered with clichés by his director and screenwriters. The evildoers, it turns out, were right in his own backyard.
PLOT A deskbound CIA analyst uncovers an international terrorist plot.
RATING PG-13 (action violence)
CAST Chris Pine, Kenneth Branagh, Keira Knightley
BOTTOM LINE A boyish Pine is the freshest thing about this Tom Clancy reboot, a dated Cold War thriller with villainous Russkies straight from the 1980s. Even Mikhail Baryshnikov is in it.
FOUR PAIR OF FOUR JACK RYANS
Playing Tom Clancy's CIA analyst Jack Ryan isn't all that Alec Baldwin, Harrison Ford, Ben Affleck and Chris Pine have in common. Each has co-starred with another Jack Ryan portrayer in other movies outside the popular action-movie franchise. Here are their pairings.
WORKING GIRL (1988) -- Melanie Griffith was torn between two future Jack Ryans in Mike Nichols' Oscar-winning comedy: Baldwin ("The Hunt for Red October") as her cheating boyfriend and Ford ("Patriot Games," "Clear and Present Danger") as her boss' beau.
PEARL HARBOR (2001) -- It bombed with critics, but this World War II actioner featuring Baldwin as Lt. Col. Jimmy Doolittle and Affleck ("The Sum of All Fears") as a hotshot pilot under his command raked in more than $449 million globally.
SMOKIN' ACES (2007) -- Sin City was the setting for this story of the Mob, the FBI and various other Vegas lowlifes, including Affleck as a sleazy bail bondsman and Pine as a neo-Nazi.
RISE OF THE GUARDIANS (2012) -- Pine provided the voice for Jack Frost, who is enlisted by Santa Claus (Baldwin) to stop the villainous Pitch Black from threatening the children of the world in this computer-animated fantasy, which got a chilly reception from critics.
-- Daniel Bubbeo