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ON FAITH & MEDIA View Comments

Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit

By
John Mulderig
Source: Catholic News Service


Chris Pine and Kevin Costner star in a scene from the movie "Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit."
Few fictional characters have proven as durable as novelist Tom Clancy's brainy—and Catholic-educated—spy, Jack Ryan.

Spread across more than a dozen books and four film adaptations, his exploits have kept readers and viewers engaged, some of them riveted, ever since his first appearance between the covers of "The Hunt for Red October" 30 years ago.

In crafting the enjoyable origin-story thriller "Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit" (Paramount), director Kenneth Branagh, who also plays the movie's principal villain, provides mature viewers with a diverting adventure. The level of mayhem as well as other considerations, however, bars recommendation for youngsters.

Though originally a baby-boomer, in this iteration Ryan (a likable Chris Pine) is young enough to be studying at the London School of Economics on 9/11. He reacts to the events of that day by joining the Marines, only to be wounded in a helicopter crash in Afghanistan.

While recovering, Ryan makes two significant connections: Romantically, he bonds with his physical therapist, Cathy Muller (Keira Knightley), who becomes his live-in girlfriend. Professionally, he catches the eye of CIA operative William Harper (Kevin Costner), who recruits him as a financial analyst for the agency.

Planted undercover at a Wall Street firm, Ryan eventually comes across evidence of portentous investment manipulations by sinister Russian oligarch Viktor Cherevin (Branagh). Only Ryan, it soon develops, can foil Cherevin. But to do so, he'll have to cross the line from desk work to perilous field activity.

What follows is slick, clever and fun. Morally, the picture gains credibility from Ryan's evident qualms about the use of fatal force. Compelled to take out an adversary in a kill-or-be-killed situation, he's shown to be both shaken and haunted by the incident.

Ryan's relationship with Cathy would likely be more ethically acceptable except for the fact that their shacking up together, but stopping short of marriage, serves to advance the plot. Ryan is only authorized to tell Cathy the real nature of his work once she becomes his wife. For reasons not really explained, however, she initially turns down his proposal (made, in an all-too-modern manner, when the two are in bed together).

This leaves Cathy free to stumble unknowingly into danger once Ryan goes after Cherevin. Later, though, the engagement seems to be a done deal. In fact, Cathy's diamond ring becomes a significant prop since it has special capabilities that fit in with the story but that can't be specified here for fear of a spoiler.

Strangely, the Russian Orthodox Church gets dragged into the proceedings in an incidental but less than flattering way.

As a choir chants in the background, ultra-nationalist Cherevin is shown lighting a candle in church and praying for the success of his malign project. Subsequently, his underlings are alerted to the fact that the time has come to put his scheme into action by a liturgical reading that serves as a coded signal.

Whether the clergyman reciting the telltale passage is in on the plan remains unclear. But it's safe to assume that Orthodox believers will not be pleased by this portrayal of their community. Though too fleeting to be really offensive, it's an unwelcome ingredient in an otherwise mostly pleasing recipe.

The film contains some harsh violence, much bloodless gunplay, images of gory combat wounds, premarital cohabitation, several instances of profanity, at least one use of the F-word and about a half-dozen crude terms. The Catholic News Service classification is A-III—adults. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is PG-13—parents strongly cautioned. Some material may be inappropriate for children under 13.

*****
John Mulderig is on the staff of Catholic News Service.





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Monica: The circumstances of St. Monica’s life could have made her a nagging wife, a bitter daughter-in-law and a despairing parent, yet she did not give way to any of these temptations. Although she was a Christian, her parents gave her in marriage to a pagan, Patricius, who lived in her hometown of Tagaste in North Africa. Patricius had some redeeming features, but he had a violent temper and was licentious. Monica also had to bear with a cantankerous mother-in-law who lived in her home. Patricius criticized his wife because of her charity and piety, but always respected her. Monica’s prayers and example finally won her husband and mother-in-law to Christianity. Her husband died in 371, one year after his baptism. 
<p>Monica had at least three children who survived infancy. The oldest, Augustine (August 28) , is the most famous. At the time of his father’s death, Augustine was 17 and a rhetoric student in Carthage. Monica was distressed to learn that her son had accepted the Manichean heresy (all flesh is evil)  and was living an immoral life. For a while, she refused to let him eat or sleep in her house. Then one night she had a vision that assured her Augustine would return to the faith. From that time on, she stayed close to her son, praying and fasting for him. In fact, she often stayed much closer than Augustine wanted. </p><p>When he was 29, Augustine decided to go to Rome to teach rhetoric. Monica was determined to go along. One night he told his mother that he was going to the dock to say goodbye to a friend. Instead, he set sail for Rome. Monica was heartbroken when she learned of Augustine’s trick, but she still followed him. She arrived in Rome only to find that he had left for Milan. Although travel was difficult, Monica pursued him to Milan. </p><p>In Milan, Augustine came under the influence of the bishop, St. Ambrose, who also became Monica’s spiritual director. She accepted his advice in everything and had the humility to give up some practices that had become second nature to her (see Quote, below). Monica became a leader of the devout women in Milan as she had been in Tagaste. </p><p>She continued her prayers for Augustine during his years of instruction. At Easter, 387, St. Ambrose baptized Augustine and several of his friends. Soon after, his party left for Africa. Although no one else was aware of it, Monica knew her life was near the end. She told Augustine, “Son, nothing in this world now affords me delight. I do not know what there is now left for me to do or why I am still here, all my hopes in this world being now fulfilled.” She became ill shortly after and suffered severely for nine days before her death. </p><p>Almost all we know about St. Monica is in the writings of St. Augustine, especially his <i>Confessions</i>.</p> American Catholic Blog The Church really is my mother, too. She isn’t a vague maternal force for a generic collection of anonymous people. This Mother truly nurtures us—each one of us. And for those of us who are baptized Christians, the Church has actually given birth to us on a spiritual level.

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CATHOLIC GREETINGS
St. Monica
The tears of this fourth-century mother contributed to her son's conversion to Christ.

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