Jack Ryan is a highly intelligent analyst who has the ability to see the patterns in data that other people cannot. After tragedy strikes, he is enticed to work for the CIA, but in doing so he uncovers a Russian plot to crash the US economy. He finds himself suddenly thrust into the field, but does he have what it takes against the cold menace of a determined and dangerous man with a grudge to bear?

Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit (2014) – Director: Kenneth Branagh

Is Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit appropriate for kids

Rating: 12A

Running Length: 105 mins

Starring: Chris Pine, Keira Knightley, Kenneth Branagh

Genre: Action, Thriller


Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit’ marks the return to our screens of a previously very successful franchise. Based on the CIA analyst character created by Tom Clancy (who sadly died in 2013), ’Jack Ryan’ sees Chris Pine (‘Star Trek’, ‘This Means War’) take on the titular character; a man who lives in a world of political intrigue, espionage, and clandestine drama. ‘Shadow Recruit’ is an original story, not based on any of Clancy’s novels, which sees the franchise try to reclaim its place in a world now occupied by Jason Bourne and a revamped James Bond.

With a calm and skilled direction by Kenneth Branagh (who also wonderfully stars as antagonist, Viktor Cherevin) there is a measured competency to this movie. The plot builds slowly and allows real room for the characters to breathe. Unfortunately, this only goes to show that Pine’s Ryan doesn’t have much personality to fill up the screen. Harrison Ford’s Ryan was full of boy scout righteousness. Alec Baldwin’s Ryan had a calculating intelligence that saw underneath the scheming of other’s. Pine’s Ryan is somewhat of a skilled everyman. With the secret life of the CIA causing problems in his love life, and an unwillingness to get out from behind his desk, this is a Ryan designed to appeal to everyone, and, therefore conversely, lacks any appeal at all.

Without the heart pumping tension, ’Jack Ryan’ is not a movie that will attract those, children or no, who want things to move along at an exciting pace. In terms of an action movie, ’Jack Ryan’ has limited bang for its buck, choosing instead to fall back on spy thriller roots. The set pieces move the excitement along competently enough, but ’Jack Ryan’ wants to be a more complicated movie with added tangles to the plot. Instead, it goes through the action numbers and never really surprises you. You know exactly what you are going to get, which sometimes is just fine.


There was little unsuitable content in this movie with the majority being violence related.

Although perhaps a strange thing to point out, there is a scene near the beginning of the film with a helicopter which, in the movie theatre, is incredibly loud and may cause discomfort to some younger ears. Shortly after this there is a very loud explosion which is intercut with fast shots of people shouting and fire.

After the explosion one character is rushed into emergency medical care. It explained that he has a broken back and we see one close-up of his injury. This isn’t particularly gory or bloody; there is some blood and split skin but no visibly protruding bone. The shot lingers for around 10 seconds.

One character is being administered a drug by a very nervous person. When a mistake is apparently made, the character receiving the injection rises and punches the other man to the ground where he proceeds to kick him repeatedly (out of shot). The man is then dragged out of the room. This moment is not gratuitous or glorified in any way.

The strongest content is by way of a sustained drowning scene. After a fight in a hotel room, a man falls face first into a bath. His head is stood on and his arm held aloft whilst the bath slowly fills with water. This takes around 2 minutes of screen time and, although there is no enjoyment in the attacker, the man struggles fruitlessly until the water goes above his head and he drowns. The camera stays on his face for his final moments of gagging. The character who survives is very shaken by this encounter, his hands are shaking in later scenes and he is clearly disturbed by what has taken place. Therefore, even though the death is violent and sustained, the violence is given context and not glorified.

Aside from the above, one character kills another by a sudden knife stab to the neck. There is no blood and the amount of time spent on the man gasping is short. Another man is later stabbed in the chest and again this is not lingered on.

One tense scene involves the kidnapping of a character. They are threatened with torture by way of having a light bulb forced into their mouth and broken. The dialogue says that this causes massive injury to the palette, gums, throat and bone. The threatened character is very scared and this scene lasts around 5 – 10 minutes, although it is intercut with a simultaneous car chase to locate the characters so the focus is not entirely on the threats.

There is one usage of a strong curse word but, unlike most 12A movies where this is reserved for a dramatic moment, on this occasion it is used in a casual sentence only a short way through the film. It would therefore be unexpected and difficult to avoid.



Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit’ sits in that unhappy middle ground of not complicated or tense enough for adults, nor exciting or fast paced enough for children. As a revamp of a previously successful franchise, this movie does little to reinvigorate Jack Ryan as a character. However, Branagh’s fully rounded villain is a joy to watch and there is certainly enough drama here to make for an entertaining 105 minutes. ‘Jack Ryan’ may not be the most exciting movie experience you will see this year, but as a piece of entertainment it will be enough to tide you over.

In terms of general content we believe that this movie’s content is appropriate for ages 7 and up, however as the drowning scene is quite sustained, this scene in particular may affect children so we advise caution. In addition, the film could be quite dull for those aged under 10.

  • Violence:  3/5 (minimal blood and pain. One sustained drowning scene.)
  • Emotional Distress: 2/5 (the scene where the lightbulb is threatened to be forced into a character’s mouth is emotionally intense)
  • Fear Factor: 0/5
  • Sexual Content: 1/5 (some minor suggestion and double meaning where Branagh’s character attempts to seduce an engaged woman)           
  • Bad Language: 2/5 (one strong swear word and one moderate usage. Several uses of mild blasphemy)
  • Dialogue: 2/5 (verbal threats. One character describes how their first kill was the accidental murder of an innocent female bystander) 
  • Other notes: Deals with themes of patriotism, espionage, international politics, duplicity, family tragedy and intelligence gathering.

Words by Mike Record

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