Movies I missed from the last decade.
Film #54: Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit
Chris Pine becomes the fourth actor to play Jack Ryan on the big screen, and the film starts boldly, with Ryan, a student in London hearing of the 9/11 attacks which leads him to join the Marines. Injured in Afghanistan, Ryan recovers and falls for the med student who helps him with his physio Keira Knightley, he’s also approached by a CIA agent, Kevin Costner, who recruits him to work covertly on Wall Street, watching for terrorist funding. He can tell nobody about his role and soon finds himself involved in the investigation of Russian money, which he fears might crash the US economy and cause chaos in America.
From there Ryan, despite his role as an analyst is drawn into a conspiracy of assassins and espionage and must fight to stay alive, and work out who is pulling the strings and how to stop them. Pine is quite watchable, even if the part is underwritten, and it has a decent villain in Kenneth Branagh’s Russian schemer, who he plays just the right side of hammy. There’s also a good supporting turn from Kevin Costner, an actor who we don’t see enough of these days.
It’s a decent and engaging thriller, but can’t match the Harrison Ford starring Ryan movies for me, and with John Krasinski doing a great job in the awesome TV show, this will go down as “a one and done” attempt to reboot the character on the big screen. A shame as they could have built on the work here. 7/10.
Film #57: Primal
A film I heard discussed on comedy show Hypothetical and instantly went for the premise, with Nic Cage as a big game hunter who ends up transporting his latest deadly capture on the same boat as a notorious killer. The killer gets loose and frees the animals, leaving our man having to fight for his life as the hunter becomes the hunted.
It’s wonderfully daft with a drinking, smoking gruff Cage butting heads with the straitlaced US agents and the kerazy villain. We also have snakes, monkeys and a jaguar to liven things up. Famke Janssen is underused as the love interest/medical expert. It’s a decent, if predictable action flick and Cage is on good form. 7/10.
Film #67: Bumblebee
For me The Transformers franchise started floundering early on, after a decent first movie it quickly got stale and rather dull. I think a major problem was that almost every robot in disguise was a similar colour scheme and look. I get that they wanted them to look realistic, or whatever, but throw some bright colours in the mix dude, make it easy to differentiate between robots. You’re making kids movies!
Anyway, one of the few who did stand out with his yellow colour scheme was Bumblebee, and this movie gives us a look at what happened to him before he met up with Shia Lebouef. And I gotta say that I dug the opening sequence where we see the robots rocking their old school looks. Bumblebee escapes a Decepticon attack and crash lands on Earth in the ’80s where he quickly draws the attention of John Cena’s government agent.
He defeats a Decepticon who jumps him, but his memory is damaged and his voicebox ripped out. Disguised as VW Beetle he lies dormant in a junkyard until Hailee Steinfeld’s Charlie, a mopey teen finds him and fixes him up, discovering he’s a robot she tries to keep him hidden and they become friends. Meanwhile, Shatter and Dropkick, two Decepticons come to Earth to track down their enemy and trick the US government, but not a skeptical Cena into helping them, stating that Bumblebee is a criminal.
The movie’s quite good fun, and the central dynamic between Charlie and Bee is handled pretty well. The ’80s nostalgia is handled fairly well, largely through a near constant stream of old school pop songs but also more pointedly in one scene where the US is duped into helping the bad guys due to their fear that if they don’t they’ll go to the Russians, capturing the paranoia of the Cold War period.
John Cena is decent enough in the role of the military man with beef against Bumblebee but suspicions towards the Decepticons, it’s also nice that his character addresses how obviously evil their name sounds (“They literally call themselves Decepticons. That doesn’t set off any red flags?”). It’s not a classic, but it’s a serviceable enough family action film and is still an improvement on the last couple of films in the series. It just feels a little formulaic and underwritten in places. 6/10.
Any thoughts? You know what to do. BETEO.