Jack Reacher is a surprising film. It delivers solid non-shaky cam action, excellent tension, very fine characterization, a compelling story, and some really genuine humor.
It feels somewhat retro and is altogether darn satisfying. Most people will enjoy it.
Here’s the trailer:
Released December 21, 2012
Written by Christopher McQuarrie, based on the novel One Shot by Lee Child
Directed by Christopher McQuarrie
Starring Rosamund Pike, Tom Cruise, Richard Jenkins, Alexia Fast, David Oyelowo, Joseph Sikora, Robert Duvall, and Werner Herzog
* * * * *
In a city in the heartland of America, five seemingly random people are murdered in a public place, victims of a cruel sniper. Evidence is found and a slam-dunk case is built around the sniper being Barr (Sikora), a former military sniper.
But Barr tells the prosecutor, Rodin, (Jenkins) and the lead investigator, Emerson, (Oyelowo), to go find Jack Reacher.
Before they can do that, Reacher (Cruise) shows up. He’s determined to make sure Barr goes to jail, having had a history with him in the military. Turns out Reacher was an extremely effective Military Police investigator. Now he’s a solo drifter.
Barr’s attorney, Helen (Pike), hires Reacher as an investigator after Reacher realizes that the murderer couldn’t possibly be Barr and that there’s far more to the case than meets the eye. During his investigation, Reacher encounters a confused girl named Sandy (Fast) who helps point him in the right way and who serves as an emotional center to the film.
Thus ensues a gritty, noir-ish, grim unfolding of Reacher’s pursuit of the bad guys. The climactic showdown reeks of Die Hard and Lethal Weapon films with its simple, linear destruction of the bad guys by a determined, righteous good guy. Or two. (Not saying anything more.)
First off, let’s discuss the flaws. The picture feels somewhat small and is more than a little predictable. Tom Cruise is Tom Cruise, so Jack Reacher becomes Tom Cruise in a serious and earnest role, with a few reasons to not mind that. Finally, Jack Reacher doesn’t offer anything new– except that we haven’t seen a solid, quality movie about a determined man out to do what’s right and stop some bad guys since Dirty Harry or the Die Hard films– except Die Hard movies tend to have higher stakes.
The story unfolds in a straightforward manner, with a few important bits of back story filled in without fanfare or fancy effects. No sub-plots, no romantic entanglements, no overarching conspiracy to create the need for a sequel– this movie is about the man for whom it’s named. When Reacher’s in the scene, the focus is clearly on him, making this a movie about him and what he’s doing. Luckily, Cruise, while still Cruise, is charming and engaging enough to carry that off well enough.
Effects are kept to a minimum, as are fancy camera angles. Car chases unfold in long, tracking shots, without jitters and other irritants. Hand-to-hand combat is not filmed in eternal spirals, with a shaky camera– instead it is filmed in wide shots, so that we can see exactly what Reacher is up to at all times.
Colors are strong and clear. Scenes are never confusing. Motivations are always clear. There is seriously nothing fancy about this film; even the budget is modest.
And that’s what makes it good and somewhat retro. Here we have a man who is superior in smarts and skill and power to those he is taking on and he makes that clear. His dialogue is simple and unpretentious– but he’s clear that he will beat the everloving snot out of anyone in his way. Tom Cruise pulls off the menacing dialogue that Charles Bronson was a master at fairly well– although there must be something artful happening so that he does not appear so much shorter than everyone else.
Other acting is solid. Jenkins has very little to do, but he’s credible and feels authentic. Oyelowo is a fine actor. Alexia Fast is tragically excellent. Rosamund Pike isn’t quite given enough to do, but she carries her standard-bearing defense attorney well. Werner Herzog is a delight as the eastern European villain.
A final note. The dialogue between the characters is tremendous. Great humor, great pacing,
The film is long, but didn’t feel it. It is not clumsy, nor elegant. It is solid in its gait and action film lovers will generally adore Jack Reacher and will want more in a year or two.
Content warnings: Lots of violence, some mild language, some risque clothing
Writing: 4.5 Acting: 4 Overall: 4.5
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