This article was originally posted in February 2014; it is republished here in light of the recent alarming ramp-up of tensions between the United States and Russia (with a Western media largely complicit in a poisonous revamped Russophobia), and the possibility of a proxy war, or worse, breaking out in Syria should Hillary Clinton become president.

Kenneth Branagh’s Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit is not a great or even a good movie, but the fact of its very dubious celluloid existence attests to a very real social phenomenon: the attempted ginning up, by certain powerful and influential American lobby groups, of a new Cold War with Russia.

Released (surely not uncoincidentally) just prior to the opening of the Winter Games in Sochi, an event which puts Putin’s Russia on the world’s stage, the film strives to revive the jingoistic xenophobia of those beloved cheese-laden Soviet-bashing films from the 80s—cinematic masterworks like Red Dawn, Rocky IVIron Eagle, and Rambo: First Blood, Part II, inter alia-- while also attempting to repackage its rah-rah anti-Ruskie-isms as something altogether palatable for 21st Century liberals, without at the same time alienating the generally conservative Tom Clancy fan base.

Thus in the propaganda piece that is Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit, we have neoconservatism and neoliberalism joined in a newly passionate embrace, merged at the hip like insufferably patriotic Siamese twins, each fiercely denouncing an enemy big and fearsome enough for both of them to hate, dread, and loathe: namely, the post-Soviet Kremlin, which, according to the film, ominously threatens to reclaim past ascendancy, with numerous agents, infiltrators, and apparatchiks apparently hell-bent on wrecking the American economy and delivering a staggering terrorist strike in New York that will make 9/11 look like a mere panty raid.


Shadow Recruit is also unabashedly and unambiguously pro-American establishment, featuring a glowing portrayal of all bureaucratic manifestations of United State government. The CIA, FBI, and NSA are the good guys here. No sign of corruption or duplicity is even glimpsed among these tireless, crisply efficient, and conscientiously vigilant arbeiters in the intelligence community. Instead, the evil is exclusively without, rather than within: specifically, it lurks inside the walls of the sinisterly pristine towers of a new, revitalized and prosperous post-Communist Moscow, where a ruthless oligarch named Victor Cherevin (Branagh himself in full scenery-chewage mode) plots, with the connivance of his superiors in government, to “make America bleed.”

The blandly handsome actor Chris Pine is the latest incarnation of Jack Ryan, replacing the equally dull Ben Affleck from 2002’s The Sum of All Fears, and this time around the youngster is mentored by Thomas Harper, a veteran CIA operative played by the always spectacularly bland Kevin Costner. This stolid, square-jawed, ploddingly heroic, and totally uninteresting duo must act to stop Branagh’s far more lively, wily, and crafty villain from launching a horrifying attack on—where else?—lower Manhattan.

Evil Ruskies, etc., etc.
Like Sum of All FearsShadow Recruit is sanitized and PC-ified, presumably for our protection. The 2002 movie was released just a few months after 9/11, but the deadly, ruthless well-connected terrorists it featured weren’t fundamentalist Middle Eastern Muslims but… white European neo-Nazis (!!!) Similarly, Shadow Recruit depicts a scenario in which the clandestine members of a murderous terror cell planning a suicide bombing on Wall Street are also devout congregants in an American parish of… the Russian Orthodox church.
Wait. Say what?
Putting aside for the moment the fact that Orthodoxy, like all other branches of Christianity, forbids suicide, and thus, that a man who blows himself up, killing thousands of innocent civilians in the process, by definition cannot be a faithful and devout believer (unlike in radical Islam, where such jihadis are commonly viewed as righteous martyrs, hence 9/11, et al.), it is also worth pointing out that, even if such an event were theologically possible, there is absolutely no historical precedent for any such phenomenon. To posit such a circumstance as plausible is embarrassingly stupid and reeks of patently juvenile cultural ignorance, much like this notorious scene in Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom where a banquet hall full of gibbering Hindus feast delightedly on live, squirming eels and chilled monkey brains while their white American guests look on, horrified. As with this ridiculous moment from that full-on Spielberg schlock-fest, this aspect of the Shadow Recruit plotline demonstrates a supreme and willful disregard for reality on the part of its creators.

Still, the point is made: “We can’t trust those rotten Russians! Hell, they’re even willing to sacrifice their own lives to take us out! They are foreign, and creepily religious, with mores that are patently alien to our way of life; they are corrupt, drunken, sexist, sadistic, and adulterous, and they talk funny, too… if not for the fine work of the American intelligence services, they would surely torture and murder us all! Perhaps a preemptive strike is in order to bring about a regime change!” (So we are meant to mutter to ourselves as we leave the theater as the final credits roll.)


In fact, Shadow Recruit deserves some points for never even slightly pulling its propagandistic punches. Instead of making Cherevin a mere rogue agent, acting outside of the jurisdiction of the proper Russian government, he is in fact the Kremlin's primary black-ops agent, employed to do their bidding (though they of course will deny any involvement and view him as expendable should he fail). Thus the indictment is sweeping enough to encompass the entirety of the regime, and not just certain aspects of the Russian way of life. Indeed, Shadow Recruit wears its Russophobia on its sleeves proudly, almost fanatically.

Not to dwell on the obvious, but I think we all know that a movie which asserted the thoroughgoing, top-to-bottom perfidy of say, Iran, Saudi Arabia or any other Islamic nation would never get made today—such a depiction would be derided (perhaps rightly) as hateful and racist . And criticism of Israel? Fuhgetaboutit, goyboy! Never gonna happen. Yet with Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit, a big-budget, studio-produced film, Hollywood has openly agitated for fear, disdain, and distrust of Russia in a way that they would never have dared in the case of any other country on earth. That they have in effect declared war on Russia, to my mind, speaks volumes. I’m no Putin-worshipper, not by a longshot, but damn, that nigga must be doing something right to have made so worthy an enemy!

Andy Nowicki, assistant editor of Alternative Right, is the author of eight books, including Under the NihilThe Columbine PilgrimConsidering Suicide, and Beauty and the Least. He occasionally updates his blog when the spirit moves him to do so. Visit his Soundcloud page.


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