Reel Critics: A 'Shadow' of past thrillers

Author Tom Clancy created CIA agent Jack Ryan as the hero of several novels that became major films. The Ryan character has been played by Alec Baldwin in "The Hunt for Red October," Harrison Ford in "Patriot Games" and Ben Affleck in "The Sum of All Fears." Chris Pine now tackles the role of the hard-charging spy in "Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit."

Kevin Costner plays his superior officer. He tasks young Ryan with preventing a major financial catastrophe. They become aware that a terrorist attack is being planned to coincide with a monumental currency trade by Russian operatives. The scheme will result in the meltdown of the U.S. dollar if the attack is successful.

What follows is a classic espionage thriller that hopes to be in the mold of the "Mission: Impossible" or "Bourne" series of films. This effort has its exciting moments and great production values. But the predictable plot developments and chaotic chase scenes have all been done before and done better.

—John Depko


'Past' will linger in memory

Director Asghar Farhadi's "The Past," his latest film after the Oscar-winning "A Separation," proves without a doubt that he is a major writing and directing talent. I'm shocked that this wasn't nominated for Best Foreign Language Film this year.

Set in a small Paris suburb, this is an intimate drama about marriage and family and the ripple effects of troubled relationships. It's brilliant in its simplicity and truth.

Ahmad (Ali Mosaffa) arrives from Iran so that he and Marie (Bérénice Bejo) can amicably finalize their divorce. We see at once that there are still-harbored resentments and regrets. Marie has two daughters from a previous marriage and asks Ahmad to talk to her oldest, Lucie (Pauline Burlet), who doesn't want to be around her.

It turns out Marie is living with a new man, Samir (Tahar Rahim), and teenage Lucie does not like him. Samir has a little boy who is also struggling with this new domestic arrangement.

Ahmad, trying to be the good guy, finds himself pulled deeper and deeper into everyone's dramas, and the many layers of secrets and hidden motives draw us in as well.

Farhadi's story is so complex and surprising that to tell you more would rob you of its power. Suffice to say, nothing about these characters is what it appears to be.

The beautiful Bejo, who earned international acclaim as the star of "The Artist," gives an intensely complex performance. The entire cast's performances are heartfelt and real, including those of the children.

The final scene of "The Past" is quite affecting, leaving us to ponder the fates of these people and how they will ever reconcile their past and painful present into a hopeful future.

—Susanne Perez

JOHN DEPKO is a retired senior investigator for the Orange County public defender's office. He lives in Costa Mesa and works as a licensed private investigator. SUSANNE PEREZ lives in Costa Mesa and is an executive assistant for a company in Irvine.

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