2012, 130mins, 12
Director: Chris McQuarrie
Writer: Chris McQuarrie, Lee Child (novel)
Cast includes: Tom Cruise, Rosamund Pike, Jai Courtney, Werner Herzog, Richard Jenkins
UK Release Date: 26th December 2012
In 2008 Christopher McQuarrie (in the capacity of writer) teamed-up with Tom Cruise on “Valkyrie”, a simmering tale of intrigue and suspense that wrought tension out of the well documented failed attempt to assassinate Adolf Hitler. Clearly the two shared a connection, not only is McQuarrie widely speculated to be a candidate for the director’s chair on the next “Mission Impossible” venture, but Cruise’s latest potential franchise starter “Jack Reacher” also has him at the helm. Based on a longstanding series of books by author Lee Child, “Jack Reacher” does the iconic literary heavyweight good service, even if Cruise represents an unlikely casting choice. Working around a simplistic but satisfying narrative, Cruise is able to imbue the title character with thunderous personality, McQuarrie keepings things ticking over with sleeked action beats and cute twists. It’s a pity the villains appear so rote, but even when considering this “Jack Reacher” is a worthwhile time-filler.
“Jack Reacher” begins with a sniper methodically picking off five targets, tracing a sunny riverside with his scope, leaving his civilian victims for dead. Ex-military shooter Raymond Barr (Joseph Sikora) is fingered for the murders, and upon being detained requests only one thing, that the police bring in Jack Reacher (Tom Cruise). Reacher, a drifter with a penchant for upholding justice arrives, but with Barr sitting in an impromptu coma, he is forced to get the bulk of his help from the accused’s attorney, Helen (Rosamund Pike). Together they begin an investigation into the crime, and as Reacher comes into contact with more evidence and a bevy of seedy characters, he begins to suspect that Barr might be innocent after all.
Tom Cruise’s sturdy and imposing performance is the weightiest positive in the film’s cannon, the actor overcoming his minute stature to convince as a meticulous and lethal ghost, a phantom of justice from beyond the grid. Cruise gets his tongue around McQuarrie’s dialogue comfortably and holds his own with steely professionalism during the violent set-pieces, it’s probably the most dangerous the actor has appeared since 2004’s “Collateral”. There’s an indisputable edge to Reacher that Ethan Hunt just doesn’t harbour, the character becoming all the more fearsome and compelling for it. The supporting cast are left to fill out generic roles, but nobody does a particularly bad job. Pike gives a turn that renders her appreciatively independent of Reacher’s affections, whilst Jai Courtney and Werner Herzog struggle admirably as the underwritten bad guys. At the end of the day it’s only Cruise’s turn that holds any substantial stock in the movie’s overall quality, the actor once again besting his critics and hitting a refined homerun.
The mystery trundles along snappily, helped by Cruise’s forceful work. Reacher is never static and as a result his probing is always felt to be in motion. Cribbed from the novel “One Shot”, the storytelling isn’t very sophisticated or innovative, but it is reliably smooth, abetted marvellously by well-adjusted edits and enough red herrings to present a genuine ambience of mystery. The opening sequence is quietly impactful, McQuarrie depicting the killings with a chilling coldness, before unleashing several authentically engaging action moments. There’s an impressively vibrant car chase midway through the festivities, and Cruise regularly gets to showcase his brawn during coherently staged bouts of fisticuffs. “Reacher” has enough action and spectacle to nourish viewers looking for a blockbusting release, and the screenplay is the right side of mindless fun.
The villains and their motives are shadily sketched, despite a physically impressive Jai Courtney (convincing as a dangerous underling) and knowingly amusing Werner Herzog. McQuarrie runs out of juice in unveiling his antagonists’ grand scheme, which in turn drains some of the appeal from the set-piece stacked conclusion. Robert Duvall clatters into proceedings enjoyably at this late stage, but it’s not enough to shake “Jack Reacher” up beyond potboiler mechanics.
McQuarrie’s direction is coated in an attractive photographical sheen and the musical score by Joe Kraemer boasts sufficiently atmospheric chords to complement the movie’s shadowy goings on. “Jack Reacher” is plenty of fun, perhaps a tad formulaic in certain spots, but more than capable of relieving those looking to scratch a thrilling itch this holiday season.
A Review by Daniel Kelly, 2012