Much like the title character, the film ‘Jack Reacher’ gets in, does its job, and gets out. Tom Cruise’s potential new franchise is a decidedly low tech detective story that offers audiences some old school entertainment. It’s hardly original, but I’m pretty sure that’s intentional on the part of Cruise and writer/director Christopher McQuarrie. They know the kind of movie this is, and in adapting Lee Child’s popular series of books about the title character, they seem to have effectively achieved their goals. Cruise is sufficiently charismatic and carries the movie from an acting standpoint, while McQuarrie plays around with the tone a little more than you’d expect. Paramount seems to be confident in this as a new franchise for Cruise (despite having a review embargo in place until opening day, normally the sign of a film with something to hide), and I think they’ve got a winning formula in place. I can see this flick playing on TV for the next decade, and I mean that as a compliment. It’s never revolutionary and does have its problems, but for pure entertainment this is a solid holiday outing at the movies. If you like action movies starring Cruise, this is another one to check out…
Jack Reacher (Cruise) is a ghost. Not the paranormal kind, but a former military policeman who’s gone off the grid. A top notch investigator, Reacher is called out of a self imposed exile when a sniper (Joseph Sikora) he has a history with goes on a rampage in Pittsburg and tells his attorney Helen (Rosamund Pike), the detective investigating the crime (David Oyelowo) and the District Attorney (Richard Jenkins) to “get Jack Reacher”. Everything seems to neat and too good to be true in stringing this guy up, and in Reacher’s mind that means something is amiss. Helen is the daughter of the DA, and she also suspects that something isn’t right. Soon enough, both are being followed by some shadowy figures and more people begin to die. Before long, it becomes apparent that a shady figure (Werner Herzog) and his right hand man (Jai Courtney) don’t want this crime solved properly, and will do anything to make sure the secrets of the event stay buried. The one thing they didn’t count on is Jack Reacher though, and that leads to a lot of pain. Obviously this is a pretty standard issue story, but it’s handled in an above average manner.
Tom Cruise could do this role in his sleep, but he still turns in a very solid performance. The character fits him like a glove, despite in the novels being over six feet tall and blonde. He gets to do all the fun action hero things, just without the gadgets his other roles usually have. There’s more than a little bit of Steve McQueen in Cruise’s interpretation of Jack Reacher. He’s a genius investigator, but moreover he’s just a badass. Werner Herzog gets to be weird, but he’s not much of a villain, while Jai Courtney is mostly anonymous muscle. Richard Jenkins and David Oyelowo are underused, while the immensely talented Rosamund Pike is wasted, aside from showing off her physical traits during one very unusual scene (you’ll know it when you see it). Robert Duvall also has an extended cameo that’s fun, but sort of out of another movie. The cast also includes Joseph Sikora and Alexia Fast, but the film lives and dies on Cruise alone. Luckily, he’s more than up to the task.
Aside from some unusually broad attempts at comedy, the writing and directing of Christopher McQuarrie is better than the action genre usually gets. He gives the film some life and paces things very well. You never feel the length of the movie, which is a little over two hours long. McQuarrie begins with an incredibly tense sequence depicting the murders that set the story in motion, and the scene is terrific, if more uncomfortable than usual in light of the recent shooting in Connecticut. While he seems uninterested in the rest of his cast, he works quite well with Cruise and could definitely continue this franchise with him if all goes well. They’re not trying to reinvent the wheel, but they are making a pretty good action movie.
‘Jack Reacher’ is just looking to be the kind of movie most people’s fathers enjoy, and I feel it’s very successful in that regard. I have no trouble recommending it to anyone who enjoys Tom Cruise, action movies, or more specifically Tom Cruise action movies. Don’t go in expecting a brave new take on the genre, but if you like your mysteries handled well, this is likely going to be very satisfying. It’s a paperback novel come to life, and I for one had a very good time with it. Check it out for some simple fun at the movies…you’ll likely be glad that you did!
–Thoughts? Discuss in the comments!