Jack Reacher (2013)

Tom Cruise, Rosamund Pike, Richard Jenkins, Werner Herzog

Dir. Christopher McQuarrie

Let’s ignore the fact that Tom Cruise is about four foot shorter than the fictitious Jack Reacher of the novels. Everyone (including me, notice) has pointed this out, but if it’s all right by Lee Child, the author of the Jack Reacher novels, then it’s okay by me.

So, let’s move on to my second grudge. Whenever Tom Cruise appears in a film he always plays himself. He is the polar opposite to an actor like Michael Sheen who appears to be himself, but also has an uncany likeness to the character he’s playing, which is no mean feat. Cruise, is always Cruise, whether he’s playing a fighter pilot, spy, or brother of a man with autism. Cruise could have played the role of Bilbo Baggins and he would still look like Tom Cruise.

jack-reacherWith all this in mind you’d probably think the film would be a load of pants, but it was actually surprisingly enjoyable. This is down to the original material. Lee Childs knows how to to tell a cracking good story and once you get past the Tom Cruise shaped person in the middle of it all Jack Reacher hurtles along with wit and ingenuity.

It’s a whodunnit, a film noir with Reacher responding to a call for help from a suspect who is later beaten into a coma. The suspect has been picked up for a random shooting leaving a number of dead victims. Reacher knows the suspect from their time in Iraq; the suspect released from a murder charge investigated by Reacher when he was in the military police. Why this guy is asking for Reacher’s help nobody knows.

The film moves swiftly from one set piece to another, but it never loses sight of the fact that this is a mystery with elements of thriller thrown in. Reacher can look after himself in a fist fight, no matter how many are taking him on. He lives ‘off the grid,’ changes his clothes every day, never stays too long in one place. He’s cunning, intuitive, but you never get the feeling you’re watching a superhero, simply a well disciplined, well trained man who uses violence for self defence (and occasionally a bit of coercion.)

Support comes from Rosamund Pike, an idealistic lawyer forced to strain her wits to the limit as the tension and conspiracy mounts. Questions start to pile on top of one another and kept me guessing to the end.

I suppose there are franchise possibilities with Jack Reacher so long as the producers and directors honour Child’s writing and storytelling because that’s where the strength lies and is an element that is missing in too many films of this type. Read on to find out how not to do it.

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