Satisfaction and vindication, that’s what I felt when I walked out of the cinema after seeing Jack Reacher. I like to feel satisfied as the end credits of a movie roll, I like to feel as if I made the right choice (especially considering how it seems to get more and more expensive each time I go along), but I never expect to feel vindicated.
Jack Reacher is just one of those films, however, that many seemed to be sharpening the knives for a long time ago. It all started when Tom Cruise was picked for the lead role, playing a character who was described in the books, written by Lee Child, as 6’5 and weighing between 210 and 250 pounds. That’s certainly not Tom Cruise. People just didn’t think he was the right choice and the movie was struggling against a tide of negativity from that moment on. But I had faith, not only in Cruise but also in writer-director Christopher McQuarrie. In fact, I was genuinely excited to see the next movie from the man who gave me the superb The Way Of The Gun. He delivers, he delivers in spades.
The story is all about an ex-soldier (Barr, played by Joseph Sikora) who snaps one day, using his rifle and skills to shoot five people dead. While he’s being quizzed by the authorities he says nothing, simply writing down that he wants Jack Reacher (Cruise). Reacher is an ex-military man who lives off the grid. He’s not somebody that can be found unless he wants found. So when he wanders in to find out what is happening to Barr it takes everyone by surprise. It’s not long until many people want him out of the way again, especially when he starts looking at the evidence piled up against Barr.
If you want an all-out action movie that puts Tom Cruise way up high once again while practical effects mix with CGI to show you sights that you’ve never seen before then this film isn’t for you. The film does make use of the latest technology in places but, for the most part, this is a fantastic thriller with some hugely entertaining, but also down ‘n’ dirty (well, for the mainstream), action beats throughout. More Ronin than The Rock, it still manages to put itself forward as one of the top releases of the year thanks to the convergence of great source material, a great cast and the not inconsiderable talents of McQuarrie in the writing and directing departments.
This may be a star vehicle for Cruise (and, let’s face it, what Tom Cruise movie isn’t?) but it’s one that balances everything perfectly and takes the time to give everyone else onscreen plenty to do. Rosamund Pike is the woman trying to defend someone looking pretty indefensible and her character is the one that’s closest to Reacher for most of the runtime. But never TOO close, as viewers are reminded on one or two occasions. Werner Herzog, in an inspired piece of casting, is a chilling villain and Jai Courtney is very good as his main henchman. Richard Jenkins and David Oyelowo are the two men who think that the case shouldn’t be dragging on for so long while Robert Duvall comes in during the last half hour or so of the movie and makes a memorable addition, as he so often does.
It’s not perfect, and fans of the source material who really can’t accept Cruise in the lead role will probably never be completely won over, but it’s a cool and cruel action thriller that gets so many things right that I was tempted to rate it even higher. I really hope that this performs well enough at the box office to greenlight a sequel or two. I know that I would definitely be in the line on opening day.
DIRECTOR: CHRISTOPHER MCQUARRIE
WRITER: CHRISTOPHER MCQUARRIE (BASED ON THE BOOK BY LEE CHILD)
STARS: TOM CRUISE, ROSAMUND PIKE, RICHARD JENKINS, DAVID OYELOWO, WERNER HERZOG, JAI COURTNEY, JOSEPH SIKORA, ROBERT DUVALL, ALEXIA FAST, MICHAEL RAYMOND-JAMES
RUNTIME: 130 MINS APPROX