Jack Reacher has more than a lump of coal for you if you’ve been naughty this year.
Last year right around Christmas time, Tom Cruise came out with the fourth installment of the Mission: Impossible franchise and blew away the box office. This year he’s testing his luck again, but this time it’s with a new potential franchise character in Jack Reacher, based off the novels by Lee Child. So, does Cruise’s latest have the potential to branch into multiple movies, or is it a one and done? Luckily, it works as both.
Cruise stars as the titular character Jack Reacher, a drifter, a ghost, an ex-Army Military Police Major who won pretty much every medal there was to be won, and then took himself off the map without a trace. It isn’t until five innocents are gunned down by a sniper that he resurfaces, and that’s only because the man on the news behind the shootings – James Barr (Joseph Sikora) – is someone that Reacher almost caught for murder years before – and this time he’s going to make sure it sticks.
Of course, the police already have the Barr in custody, as the crime scene was an open and shut case. But instead of signing a confession, Barr writes the words “Get Jack Reacher,” which throws everyone for a loop. Reacher isn’t sure why Barr would ask for him, and he can’t ask him either, as Barr was beaten into a coma while being transported to holding. Barr’s defense attorney, Helen Rodin (Rosamund Pike) believes he deserves a fair trial, and that there’s got to be a reason why he asked for Reacher to begin with. With his curiosity piqued, Reacher signs on as an investigator for Helen, and the two begin to look into this case, which isn’t as open and shut as originally thought.
Now I’ve never read a Jack Reacher novel, but I do know that fans of the series were up in arms about the casting of Cruise in the role. The reason being is that in the books Reacher is a 6’5″ wall of a man, whose physical appearance is one of his main intimidation factors – and, well, Cruise is 5’8″, which is a ways off in height. However, the creator of Reacher, author Lee Child’s said, “With another actor you might get 100% of the height but only 90% of Reacher. With Tom, you’ll get 100% of Reacher with 90% of the height.” So if the creator of the character can get behind the man, there’s no reason why fans of the book shouldn’t be able to either.
That said, Cruise never looks small in the film. The coverage by director Christopher McQuarrie (The Way of the Gun) really helps make Cruise look bigger, and Cruise’s own physique doesn’t hurt anything either. There’s also something about casting a guy of an average height that helps keep the film grounded, and makes the obstacles he must overcome a little bit bigger than they would be had the character been the giant he was written as, just tearing apart the bad guys.
Cruise also has a very slick attitude about him, and just as he has in his last handful of films, he continues to look like he’s having more fun than ever making movies. He’s got some great one-liners, his deliveries are well executed, and there’s no denying his natural charisma. There are some great fight scenes he’s involved in, and the coverage on these is also spot-on, never going the shaky route, and keeping the distance lined up nicely so that the audience feels as though they’re a part of it, without many fast edits or quick cuts.
And while the story has action, this is more of a crime thriller overall. There’s a case to be solved, and Reacher investigates it throughout, just like any lawyer would do in a good Grisham adaptation, or courtroom thriller. There’s a solid amount of mystery to go along with the car chases and beat downs, and neither take away from the other. In fact, they pretty much go hand in hand most of the time. Maybe this is who Lt. Daniel Kaffee from A Few Good Men grew up to be?
McQuarrie does some fantastic work directing the film, as he’s got some wonderful coverage, and some truly perfect shots for various scenes. The opening, which involved the sniper picking off his targets, is intense and shocking. Watching people go about their day, and imagining yourself in that situation, all through the eye of the scope is incredibly well done. The lack of noise for this scene also ups the tension and really sells it as a scary moment. There are multiple times throughout the film where the shots and angles McQuarrie chooses are unique, and fitting. There’s also a great car chase which, much like his fight scenes, doesn’t rely on quick cuts or a shaking camera to sell it.
On the supporting front, Pike does solid work as the defense attorney; however, there are a few moments where you just shake your head at her actions. Of course, those are to be expected when Reacher is the one out solving the case, and someone else is needed to move the plot forward in other ways. Richard Jenkins, who is always fun to see on the screen, plays Helen’s father, and prosecuting attorney Alex Rodin, and David Oyelowo plays Detective Emerson, who does some solid work here as the man behind the initial arrest, and the one trying to keep Reacher in line with the law throughout. Robert Duvall also has a small role, which is always a plus – and ironically, he gets about as much screen time as the film’s main villain “The Zec”, played by Werner Herzog.
Herzog does some interesting things, though his character is likely much better defined within the pages of the book “One Shot”, which this film is based. While he’s got the presence of a man in charge, and a great scene later in the movie, there’s just something lacking about his character overall, which makes his role, and involvement in everything a little unclear and unsatisfying. In fact, his right hand man, Charlie (Jai Courtney), plays a bigger role in the overall story, and ultimately comes off as someone we want to see get his above all else – which is the job of the film’s antagonist.
If there are no other stories told on the silver screen with Tom Cruise as Jack Reacher, then that’s fine. This film stands on its own, it bookends itself, and closes the door enough to leave people satisfied if this is it, while leaving it open just a crack for the possibility of more. While there are plenty of Oscar caliber films on the market this holiday season, Jack Reacher is a good time to be had, and fans of the book, or crime thrillers in general should cruise down to the theater and check it out.
Director: Christopher McQuarrie Writer: Christopher McQuarrie Notable Cast: Tom Cruise, Rosamund Pike, Richard Jenkins, David Oyelowo, Robert Duvall, Werner Herzog, Jai Courtney
Brendan Campbell was here when Inside Pulse Movies began, and he’ll be here when it finishes - in 2012, when a cataclysmic event wipes out the servers, as well as everyone else on the planet other than John Cusack and those close to him. Brendan’s the #1 supporter of Keanu Reeves, a huge fan of popcorn flicks and a firm believer that sheer entertainment can take a film a long way. He currently resides in Canada, where, for reasons stated above, he’s attempting to get closer to John Cusack.