‘Jack Reacher’ is based on the popular novel ‘One Shot’ by Lee Child. Tom Cruise is Jack Reacher: a former enigmatic army investigator and multiple decorated combat veteran who is now off the grid – a drifter by choice. There is a gunman who takes five lives and all the evidence points to the suspect in custody. Upon interrogation, the suspect offers up a single note saying “Find Jack Reacher”. Well, you don’t find Jack Reacher, but he finds you. A defense lawyer (Rosamund Pike) then hires Reacher to investigate the sniper shooting case.
Word of caution – ‘Jack Reacher’ opened on December 21st (I’m only catching up on it now), and I have to say the timing for this release couldn’t be any worse. The opening scene shows a sniper shooting at people including a woman holding a small child. The Connecticut elementary school shooting took place one week before the release of ‘Jack Reacher’. Though this occurs within the first three minutes of the picture, I can see audience members who are still affected by the tragedy checking out of it (and understandably so). For the record, I am giving ‘Jack Reacher’ a recommendation (an enthusiastic one) – but some of you may want to see it later than sooner.
Is Tom Cruise tall enough? For those of you who read the Lee Child’s book, you know that Jack Reacher as a literary construct is supposed to be 6’5 and 250 lbs – a hulking figure. Tom Cruise is not – he is 5’7. Who cares? I feel like just about every movie I’ve reviewed recently is an adaptation of a popular novel – some screenwriters are faithful to the source material while others take liberties with it. Any review of mine that is a film adaptation of a literary work starts off with “Based on the novel by «insert author here»” for this reason – I know in the comments section, the question I’m going to be asked is “How does the movie hold up to the book?” 99% of the time, my answer will be “I haven’t read the book”. But, I also believe that people need to calm down with their fidelity to the source material they love. If you can’t stand the thought of a trivial detail being altered (for example, the height of the story’s hero), then seek out another offering at your local multiplex.
I personally thought Tom Cruise was a great casting choice. And his short stature works to the film’s advantage – the characters around Reacher underestimate him. They may not have lost a fight in their day, but they’ve never had Jack Reacher as an opponent. This isn’t the typical Tom Cruise performance where he flashes that megawatt smile and tries to desperately for us to love him – he dials it down here, and because he has, I bought his badass character completely. His charismatically low-key performance reminds you why Tom Cruise is a movie star – we’re fixated on the character he portrays, and we momentarily forget about the time he declared his love for Katie Holmes by jumping up and down on Oprah Winfrey’s couch during her show.
The film hints at a romance between Tom Cruise’s character and British beauty Rosamund Pike – I found her character underused and didn’t buy into the relationship between the two. ‘Jack Reacher’ is sprinkled with comedic bits, and the exchanges between Tom Cruise and Robert Duvall are some of the film’s bright spots. Unfortunately, Wernzer Herzog comes off as a stereotypical villain, which is a surprise considering how his distinctive baritone makes him sound menacing – even as he provides the voiceover for a subject he’s passionate about, as he demonstrated in the documentary ‘Cave Of Forgotten Dreams’.
There is a fantastic prolonged car chase through the streets of downtown Pittsburgh that occurs about halfway through the picture and in this sense ‘Jack Reacher’ feels like both a classic noir from the 50s and a thrilling chase flick from the 70s – a mind-teaser of blockbuster proportions.
‘Jack Reacher’ was written and directed by Christopher McQuarrie – the writer of the cult classic ‘The Usual Suspects’. The last film he directed was the criminally underrated ‘The Way Of The Gun’ back in 2000. McQuarrie has a gift for taking a relatively simple crime and inflating it into a complex web of twists and turns, double-crosses, and character revelations – his pictures contain far more depth and complexity than what is normally found in the action genre. Though most moviegoers aren’t going to recognize him by name, I truly believe McQuarrie is a master at work, and I applaud him for never underestimating the intelligence of his audience members.
Jack Reacher is a compelling character, and the movie feels like one of the better entries in the James Bond series – one in which the character relies on his smarts rather than tacky gadgets to face his enemies. Here’s hoping the next entry in this series is equally thrilling. ‘Jack Reacher’ is one of the biggest positive cinematic surprises of recent memory.