[Review] – Jack Reacher

5 Jan

Jack Reacher

Title: Jack Reacher
Year: 2012
Director: Christopher McQuarrie
Writer: Christopher McQuarrie, based on the novel by Lee Child
Starring: Tom Cruise, Rosamund Pike, Richard Jenkins, Werner Herzog, David Oyelowo, Robert Duvall, Jai Courtney
MPAA Rating: PG-13, violence, language and some drug material
Runtime: 130 min
IMDb Rating: 7.3
Rotten Tomatoes: 61%
Metacritic: 49

Tom Cruise is staging a comeback as of late. Sure, he’s never really been away for that long, but it seems now that he’s just seriously trying to retake the title of world’s biggest action star that once so certainly belonged to him. That started, of course, with last year’s stellar Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol, the fourth entry in that franchise and also the best one in the series which I ranked as the 21st best film of 2011. He was then seen in the disappointing Rock of Ages this year, but that wasn’t his movie so I don’t count that towards his comeback track record.

The next three projects he has lined up, however, are all full-on Tom Cruise blockbusters that will see just how much the public is ready to embrace him yet again as the bonafide action star he was about a decade ago. 2013 and 2014 will both see him take on sci-fi flicks, Joseph Kosinski‘s Oblivion and Doug Liman‘s All You Need Is Kill, respectively, but first off Mr. Cruise closed 2012 with a straightforward action movie called Jack Reacher, based on the book One Shot by Lee Child, the ninth in the series that follows the adventures of the film’s title character.

Now, if you’ve read any of the books (I haven’t) you may be saying or thinking what most fans of the book are clamoring: Tom Cruise just doesn’t fit the bill of the Jack Reacher character. After all, in the novels he’s described as being this huge 6’5” imposing giant, while Mr. Cruise is famously a short guy, standing at about 5’7”.

Fans have been seriously outraged about the casting the decision but I (though, again, without having read the books) think it’s irrelevant, even more so when you consider Mr. Child himself approves of Mr. Cruise’s casting. He said that a tall actor would bring 100% of the height but only 90% of Reacher and that Mr. Cruise would do 100% Reacher with 90% of the height, saying that the physical height in the books is a metaphor for an unstoppable force which Mr. Cruise portrays in his own way.

Having seen the film I think I must agree with Mr. Child’s assessment. I’ve always been a big fan of Tom Cruise action movies because he just sells you the character through cheer charisma, that’s what’s allowed him to headline movies for three decades, and Jack Reacher is no exception. It’s not an unbelievable film by any means, but it works far better than it probably would have with any other actor in the lead role; Mr. Cruise is what keeps us engaged and what makes this film end up being better than your typical action thriller sort of movie.

The film’s set in Pittsburgh where suddenly, with six shots, a sniper kills five random people sending the city into a state of terror. The police quickly seem to have solved the case but the accused man says he’s innocent and asks that they get Jack Reacher, a drifter and former Army Military Police officer, and a guy who knows the accused. Except Reacher is not necessarily a guy who’d want to get the accused freed, but rather he wants him convicted for a killing spree he went on during a tour in Iraq. It’s just that, precisely because he knows him so well, Reacher knows the man wouldn’t have missed a single shot.

So, paired up with defense attorney Helen Rodin, played by Rosamund Pike, and begins his own investigation. Soon enough Reacher is getting closer to the unseen enemy who’s pulling the strings, getting tangled up with the Russian mob and their leader, a man simply known as The Zec. And this whole thing kind of worked for me, to be honest. I mean, sure, this cool and calculating character is one Mr. Cruise can probably do in his sleep by now, but I liked how this film felt like it was one he could have done in any of the other decades he’s spent making movies, it has this throwback kind of vibe of a straightforward action movie that doesn’t rely on gadgets or huge CGI creations.

I have to give it to Mr. Cruise and to Christopher McQuarrie (best known as the Oscar-winning writer of The Usual Suspects, making his sophomore directing effort here while also handling screenplay duties) for just making that kind of movie, an action movie that simply goes on about its business and executes it well. Mr. Cruise plays this guy who lives off the grid and by his own code of honor, and the rest of the cast is in fine shape. The most genius casting move was the casting of filmmaker Werner Herzog as The Zec, the kind of role that simply requires him to be himself and own it (and he does), then you also have Robert Duvall having so much fun as a shooting range owner, and the likes of Richard Jenkins and David Oyelowo popping up here and there.

It’s true that it’s hard to enjoy this movie in the escapist way we’re supposed to when it opened just a few days after the Newtown, Connecticut shooting. This is a film that opens with the shooting of people and that has a lot of bullets and rifles in it. Perhaps the timing hurt it a bit, but look past that, or see this one later on, and I’m sure you’ll enjoy it. It has a director who stages things nicely and who happens to be a highly accomplished writer who lends this film banter that’s far better than what you get in your typical action movie, it has cinematography from Caleb Deschanel that’s great, and a performance by Tom Cruise that’s what makes this one good. This is a good second step in his comeback, here’s hoping the rest of it gets even better.

Grade: B

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