Director: Christopher McQuarrie
Writer: Christopher McQuarrie (screenplay), Lee Child (novel)
Stars: Tom Cruise, Rosamund Pike, Werner Herzog, Richard Jenkins
Release date: December 21st, 2012
Distributor: Paramount Pictures
Running time: 130 minutes
Best part: Tom Cruise.
Worst part: The laughable antagonists.
Throughout the 70s and 80s, films starring muscular heroes, one liners and brutal action sequences ruled the box office. The advent of CGI technology has sadly decreased the number of popcorn-chomping blockbusters of this type. With superheroes, aliens and models headlining blockbusters in the 21st century, it’s up to the remnants of decades past to rekindle a dormant sub-genre. Along comes Hollywood heavy-weight Tom Cruise in a role perfect for both a career resurgence and a nod to classic action films.
Jack Reacher is a tense yet tedious ode to a time of anti-establishment messages and roaring gunfights. This thriller begins with a devastating act of terrorism in the heart of America. A man drives up to the top of a parking garage, slides a coin into a parking metre, puts together a heavy-duty sniper rifle and kills five innocent people. Disturbed war veteran James Barr is convicted and District Attorney Alex Rodin (Richard Jenkins) considers it to be an open and shut case. His daughter Helen (Rosamund Pike) however, also a lawyer, is convinced that Barr is an innocent man. Barr’s only testimony requests a mysterious ex-military loner named Jack Reacher (Tom Cruise). Reacher’s cunning detective skills inevitably attract attention from advanced criminals, led by the Zec (Werner Herzog) and Charlie (Jai Courtney). Reacher and Helen become uneasy allies at a time when trust may be much more dangerous than the truth. A gritty and visceral popcorn flick is needed every once in a while. Jack Reacher prevails in this case due its intensity and inventive thrills. The first five minutes are excruciatingly uncomfortable. The sniper sequence is a silent examination of the human psyche. One unending shot depicts the shooter’s perspective, choosing his targets carefully before pulling the trigger over and over again. This scene may hit too close to home in the wake of the Newtown massacre, but the scene propels the story forward.
Jack Reacher effectively reveals the key elements of this complex case. Director and writer Christopher McQuarrie (writer of The Usual Suspects) creates a dark, energetic yet smart edge-of-your-seat thriller. Our likeable protagonists face off against the creepy underbelly of America. Crime and national prejudices are examined succinctly. The west’s involvement with Iraq and Afghanistan is dutifully discussed as our characters comprehend with a world that has abandoned them. However, the story itself is riddled with overused tropes. This fun action flick quickly becomes a generic and forgettable detective thriller. Certain clichés detract from the intensity created earlier in the film, stretching this relatively simple plot out longer than needed. Jack Reacher becomes a relevant and thoughtful character study. Based on Lee Child’s best-selling novel One Shot, his Jack Reacher character is a familiar anti-hero with shades of something much more sinister. He carries only the clothes on his back and a bus pass to his next destination. Unlike most action heroes however, Reacher places people above order. Like the heroes of Sergio Leone films, he wanders America in search of trouble. His entrance into the film is priceless, depicting the loner who wanders into town without a hint of warning. The film is an enlightening homage to classic action/crime cinema.
“You think I’m a hero? I am not a hero. And if you’re smart, that scares you. Because I have nothing to lose.” (JAck Reacher (Tom Cruise), Jack Reacher).
This Dirty Harry crime narrative combines seamlessly with the revenge fantasy elements of Point Blank. This is a film with a profound personal edge. It’s as gritty as dirt underneath fingernails. The action sequences, for example, are taken to greater heights than most modern hand-to-hand combat sequences. every hit lands with a loud crunch as McQuarrie opts for unique camera angles instead of pesky quick cuts. While Cruise doing all of his own stunts allows for the film’s car chase sequence to be captured with pristine beauty. Tom Cruise is the most important aspect of this adaptation. Cruise caused major controversy when he was cast as the beloved character. Fans openly objected to the star’s casting saying he lacked the muscular build and towering height of the literary icon. The A-lister has silenced his harshest critics here. Cruise’s steely-eyed persona and startling intensity create a charismatic anti-hero. Cruise is one of Hollywood’s most underrated actors. Couch-jumping and Scientology aside, Cruise is a true professional with a thirst for the unknown. Not since Collateral has he been this intimidating. He is able to convincingly deliver several silly lines of Child and McQuarrie’s gruff dialogue. “I mean to beat you to death and drink your blood from a boot.” This line stands out as Cruise grits his teeth and menacingly threatens Jai Courtney’s henchman character over the phone.
Whether it be mad action fans or common film-goers, Jack Reacher is likely to entertain. Despite rather common narrative flaws, Reacher is bolstered by an energetic performance from the now 50 year-old Cruise. Its an action flick unlike most coming out nowadays.