Written and Directed by Christopher McQuarrie
December 21, 2012
Drifter Jack Reacher investigates a series of apparently random killings that may not be so random.
I went into this movie completely unfamiliar with the Lee Child’s books and I thoroughly enjoyed it. I thought Tom Cruise was very effective as the character even if he did not fit the physical description. One big complaint from the readers of the series of books in which the character stars is that Tom Cruise does not fit the physical description. The character of Reacher is a large and physically intimidating man which Cruise most certainly is not. Reportedly Cruise is five feet something and while in shape, his arms are not anything unusual.
I think they need to calm down a bit here. I get the criticisms but sometimes you need to cast a name to get butts in seats and Cruise is one such name. The Reacher books certainly have fans, but they do not have the marketing machine that Marvel or DC has and may need to eschew book accuracy. I could go on endlessly about how comic book movies fail to cast actors that look the part or are an accurate version of the character in any sense. While it is good to be different, but you also need to make it work. Cruise makes it work here. He is a genuinely tough and threatening character on screen.
He accomplishes this because as an actor Cruise understands that tough does not equal monotone or looking like you are jacked on steroids. There is the right inflection in the voice, and the delivery of lines is done so in a threatening and strong manner. Tough is more than just stance and physical appearance. Or it can be anyway and Tom Cruise as Jack Reacher gets that.
There are some twists and turns in the story but in reality it is actually a pretty straightforward plot by the villains headed up by the great Werner Herzog playing a former Soviet political prisoner who refers to himself as Zec Chevolek. He runs a group of thugs that move from place to place running construction schemes with the veneer of legitimacy. He has roped a local detective (David Oyelowo) into his scheme and the muscle is headed up by an individual played by Jai Courtney.
Courtney is the weakest link in this film. As an actor he is best when he is a bit player or just goes all in with the character (think Captain Boomerang in Suicide Squad). Unfortunately creative minds give him generous amounts of time on screen because he is a pretty face and his characters with significant screen time are just bland. His character here of Charlie has dark moments but he is not consistently dark. When confronted with his failures he gets all weak. If Charlie were tougher throughout then I think I would have a better opinion of Courtney’s performance.
This is not some world altering set of events in this thriller though the events do affect the world of the assorted characters. Things do not have to hang in the balance for the entire planet or the nation in a thriller but rather they need to be high for the characters involved. We also need to be invested in the welfare of our heroes rather than upset by the bad things done by the villain. That is what we get right here. One man could be executed if the truth does not come out. Others could be killed and so on. The consequences could be dire for all involved.
The accused shooter, James Barr (Joseph Sikora), is represented by attorney Helen Rodin (Rosamund Pike) who is the daughter of District Attorney Alex Rodin (Richard Jenkins) who has never lost a case. I really expected the district attorney father to be the villain or significantly involved in the scheme somehow. That is how these stories usually work and such a predictable turn would have made this movie into comfort food rather than a main dish.
We also get Robert Duvall as a retired Marine named Cash who not only helps Reacher figure out who the real shooter is but also helps him in the film’s finale. Duvall is great and I would have loved to see more of him and Herzog in the film. As it is both of their appearances amount to glorified cameos. I know Tom Cruise was the central actor, but it is a shame we did not get more of either them. I am curious how much of the book upon which this is based those characters were in.
The story is well acted and well directed. The script is strong and there are plenty of surprises to keep you interested. There is a tension and excitement all the way through in this film shot in exotic Pittsburgh.
Jack Reacher is a fantastic addition to Tom Cruise’s action resume. You will enjoy it from start to finish. Watch it!