Originally slated for a February 2013 release, Jack Reacher was pushed up to December 21st, 2012 to both fill in for the delayed World War Z, and to also capitalize on the success that Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol had in the same release window a year prior. Unfortunately, Jack Reacher wasn’t an established blockbuster franchise, and when it went up against strong Oscar-caliber competition, it didn’t really fare too well.
In hindsight, while the box office these days is almost always a crapshoot, odds are it would’ve had more success had it remained in its February position. First off, the movie itself is really good, receiving an “A-“ Cinescore from audiences; which means word of mouth would’ve spread thanks to less competition being around at that time. Still, that’s all in the past, and while Reacher didn’t set the box office ablaze enough to warrant a franchise, the good news is that the film itself stands strong on its own – and it’s well worth owning.
Tom Cruise stars as Jack Reacher, a drifter with a distinguished past that includes being a former U.S. Military Police Corps officer. Years ago, Reacher went off the map, becoming a ghost with no way to trace his whereabouts. The law enforcement in Pittsburgh wouldn’t even know of his existence had the lead suspect in their current investigation not asked for him by name.
James Barr (Joseph Sikora) has been arrested for the murder of five people that were shot by a sniper in the middle of the day. The crime scene revealed evidence that pointed directly at Barr; however, we know that he’s not the one who pulled the trigger because the film starts with the killings being done by a man named Charlie (Jai Courtney). Charlie picks off his victims in brutal fashion, and leaves just enough evidence behind to get Barr convicted. What he didn’t account for was Barr asking for Reacher’s help.
When Reacher arrives he wants to help bury Barr due to a history the two share from their time in the military. It isn’t until Barr’s defense attorney, Helen Rodin (Rosamund Pike), persuades Reacher to look deeper into the case, and why exactly Barr asked for him to be involved that Reacher’s interest is piqued and he agrees to help out.
The story unfolds like a great crime novel because that’s what it’s adapted from. Based on the book “One Shot” by Lee Child, Jack Reacher is a wonderful film introduction to a beloved character that’s been the star of seventeen novels. With this built-in audience, it’s clear why studios thought franchise when it came to Reacher. While fans hesitated about Cruise taking on the role, Child himself stated that it’s silly to focus on the physical attributes of a character – especially height (in the books Reacher is a stout 6-foot-5) – when you have the chance to have the biggest movie star of all time take on the part.
Fans of the books can rest easy, as Cruise does the part justice and never looks small doing so. Writer/Director Christopher McQuarrie (The Way of the Gun) has great coverage throughout the entire film, really making Cruise look like a force to be reckoned with. He also really captures a gritty, brute world that translates beautifully during the action scenes. One thing McQuarrie wanted was to make things look real, and he succeeded there, as there are no Bourne Identity fast cuts, or shaky came during the hand-to-hand combat. While it isn’t abundant, what is there looks visceral and comes across as though a real, exhausting brawl is taking place. McQuarrie also captured the wit and overall badass charisma that Reacher has and translated it into one entertaining two-hour crime thriller.
And that’s exactly what Jack Reacher is: a crime thriller. While the ads mainly focused on the Fast and Furious-esque chase scene, and climactic shootout, the film itself is so much more than that. There’s a mystery to be solved here, and Reacher is one cool cucumber to watch crack it. He’s just someone whose presence on screen makes you want to get into his head, and so much of that is just how great of a job Cruise does conveying the character.
The supporting cast also works well, and Courtney is definitely an rising action star in Hollywood (even though odds are we won’t be seeing him in any future Die Hard films). Pike also has some great chemistry with Cruise, as the two constantly get close enough where audiences will have no idea how they’re not all over one another. Richard Jenkins has some great scenes as Helen’s father – and the D.A. prosecuting Barr. There’s also a great performance by Robert Duvall, who plays Cash, the owner of a gun range who gets more than he bargains for from Reacher. And finally, Werner Herzog plays The Zec, who is the films “big baddie behind the curtain,” and he does some really intimidating work here that definitely set the stage for why his character is so feared.
Also of quick mention, the score by Joe Kraemer is magnificent, and really captures the atmospheric mood and overall feeling of the film. Kraemer’s work constantly adds suspense and tension where necessary, as well as grand, heroic type beats for the scenes that require them. Basically, Kraemer has the soundtrack covered on ever level needed, and really hits a home run when it comes to capturing the feeling McQuarrie was going for.
If you passed on seeing Jack Reacher during its theatrical release, be sure not to miss it this time around. While it may have gotten somewhat lost in the holiday rush of last year, Jack Reacher is well worth your time and well worth owning if you’re either a fan of Cruise, or just a fan of crime thrillers in general.
The video transfer of the Blu-ray looks fantastic. There are plenty of night scenes later on in the film, and they come through beautifully rich and dark, yet easy on the eyes and clear when it comes to the action-taking place on screen. There are also some magnificent daytime shots that really capture the sun perfectly. This is a movie that’s meant to look like a movie, and it all works. The audio transfer is also superb, and really captures the atmosphere of each scene. The score is amazing, and really sets the tone for the entire film.
Audio Commentary with Tom Cruise and Writer/Director Christopher McQuarrie – Here’s a treat, as Cruise gives a commentary alongside his friend and the film’s writer/director McQuarrie. The two praise one another a lot (it’s clear to see why Cruise wants McQuarrie to direct the fifth Mission: Impossible with how highly he praises him throughout), while also giving insight to various ways scenes were shot, and how they had to work around the smaller budget the film had. Don’t miss this commentary track.
Audio Commentary with Composer Joe Kraemer – Kraemer talks about scoring the film, while the track itself focuses on bringing the score to the forefront for the listener to enjoy throughout.
When the Man Comes Around – This feature runs at just under 27 minutes in length and sees the cast and crew talking about how the film came to be, how Cruise got on board to play the part, what writer Lee Child thought of Cruise’s casting, and more. It’s definitely worth watching, and is a very well produced piece.
You Do Not Mess With Jack Reacher: Combat and Weapons – This feature runs at just over 10 minutes in length and McQuarrie and Cruise talk about the fighting style they were going for in the film. Cruise talks about his fight with Courtney, and how the two had to go into hot tubs between takes due to it being freezing cold and raining outside. This is an interesting quick watch that’s also worth checking out.
The Reacher Phenomenon – This featurette runs at just over 11 minutes in length and sees Lee Child talk about creating the character, the fans, his writing style and the series in general. Another fun, interesting piece to check out when you have the time.
Jack Reacher is a film that I still hope flourishes into a franchise at some point – or at least garners a sequel, as Reacher deserves at least that. However, even if that’s not the case, Jack Reacher stands strong on its own merits, and works just as well as a one-off for the character. Though trust me when I say that odds are Jack Reacher is someone you’ll want to see more of when the credits begin to roll.
Paramount Pictures and Skydance Productions present Jack Reacher. Written and Directed by: Christopher McQuarrie. Starring: Tom Cruise, Rosamund Pike, Richard Jenkins, Werner Herzog, Jai Courtney, Robert Duvall. Running time: 130 minutes. Rating: PG-13. Released: May 7, 2013. Available at Amazon.com.