Born from novels of Tom Clancy, CIA analyst turned operative Jack Ryan has had a string of stars portray him on the big screen, from Alec Baldwin in The Hunt For Red October, to Harrison Ford in Patriot Games and Clear and Present Danger, to Ben Affleck in The Sum of All Fears. But with more than a decade passing since the last of these, the beloved hero is at long last returning to theaters in the Kenneth Branagh-directed Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit. And who better to take on that role than Star Trek's Captain Kirk, Chris Pine?
At a special event in New York City, Paramount Pictures invited journalists to watch 17 minutes of the finished film, which will hit theaters early next year. Pine himself had flown in from Los Angeles to emcee the screening, and was on hand to answer questions. "Jack is really an analyst," Pine offered in his introduction. "He can get physical, but is much more comfortable behind the scenes." He went on to point out that Jack Ryan is no James Bond, who is never anything but cool in the face of certain death. Pine stressed that instead Ryan is a pretty normal guy thrown into an extraordinary situation, and this was quite clear in the first clip.
The scene began in a bustling airport in Moscow. Jack Ryan (Pine), dressed in a sharp suit, introduces himself to Embee, a Ugandan bodyguard/"fancy driver" who has been tasked with watching out for him while he's in Russia. Nonso Anozie plays the jovial driver, and Game of Thrones fans will know him as Xaro Xhoan Daxos, the duplicitous merchant of Qarth. A hulking man at 6'6", Anozie towers over 6-foot-even Pine as they enter a swanky, modern hotel with garish red furniture and lit up floor panels.
In a luxurious suite, Ryan is taking in the incredible view when he spies in the window's reflection Embee has pulled out a gun. Instinctively, Ryan ducks and flees to the bathroom as the huge would-be killer blocks the door to the hallway. A brawl ensues that seems to put Ryan at the disadvantage. After all, he is far smaller and lacks a weapon. But his training (we're later told he's a marine) kicks in. Ryan utilizes his surroundings to his advantage, taking Embee by surprise, knocking him off balance, and ultimately ending the giant in a desperate bid to save his own life.
Pine pulls off the physicality of the complicated fight choreography with aplomb. Afterwards he said of the stunt work, "I think any actor you talk to, it just seems like part of the component of doing an action film is that you try to do as much of it as you can. I enjoy it because, for instance, the fight scene that you saw, it’s like a dance so there’s like a Zen to it. You have to be really, really focused because you’re moving at really high speeds and there’s kind of a beauty to it because your world just kind of closes down, your vision is about that wide." He pulled his two hands together to suggest a sort of tunnel vision. He went on to detail how some stunts he didn't attempt not just for his own safety but for the safety of his scene partner. Best to call in a professional in situations like that. Whenever possible, though, he was game. "I enjoy it and I also think it’s important because it allows the camera all those little itty bitty moments of seeing your face. It just, again, kind of gives a reality to it."
After killing Embee, Ryan doesn't just dust himself off and split as Bond might so. He calls the CIA in a panic, pleading, "I'm out of my goddamn element." His face is racked with anxiety. His hands tremble, and I was reminded of the park scene from Bourne Identity, where Jason Bourne's body knows how to protect itself, but his brain strains to understand how to handle this level of violence. "Remember your trade craft and you'll be fine," advises a calm female voice on the other end of the phone after directing him to a rendezvous point.
For Pine this moment of grief and panic was crucial to the role of Ryan. He offered, "Many films in the milieu, in this ilk, it’s like, bad guys die all the time and no one’s really reacting to the fact that people are dying. Ken [Branagh] and I talked about that in the beginning of the process thinking, well, what would that look like? If there was a bad guy and the good guy kills the bad guy, but even still, it’s like, you’ve just killed a human being and what does that mean and how does that effect the person? I just think it made the scene a much more interesting moment."