Tom Cruise has played a variety of heroes throughout his acting career. He’s been secret agent Ethan Hunt from the Mission: Impossible movies. He’s been a pilot, “Maverick” Mitchell in Top Gun. And he’s been a cop, John Anderton, in the sci-fi flick Minority Report. Now he adds Jack Reacher, an ex-Army cop from the series of novels by thriller writer Lee Child. And while Cruise doesn’t match the physical description of the character from the books (Reacher is described as being 6’5″ and between 210 and 250 pounds, while Cruise is substantially shorter at 5’7″), he does get the character right. The demeanor, the tenacity, and the skill of Child’s character are all captured well in Cruise’s performance.
Jack Reacher is based on the novel “One Shot” by Lee Child (who co-wrote the screenplay with director Christopher McQuarrie) and opens with a sniper (Joseph Sikora) firing on people in a public park, killing five. The police soon arrest the sniper, and as the district attorney (Richard Jenkins) and the lead detective (David Oyelowo) try to get him to write a confession, he scrawls on the paper: “Get Jack Reacher”. Reacher sees a news report on the shootings and , recognizing the shooter from an encounter years before in Baghdad, makes his way to the city to speak to the district attorney Rodin and the lead detective Emerson. He ends up agreeing to help the defense attorney, Helen (Rosamund Pike), who is also the DA’s daughter, and becomes her lead investigator. As Reacher uncovers clues, all is not what it seems, leading to escalating violence on the way to uncovering the truth.
The movie moves along at a nice pace for the most part. It’s a straightforward action thriller without huge explosions or CGI enhanced stunts and set pieces. McQuarrie stages things nicely, though they lack any real tension. You always know that Reacher’s skills will help get him out of any jam, which he does often accompanied by some funny lines that fit the situation. A few lines are more groan inducing than humorous (“I mean to beat you to death, and drink your blood from a boot.”) but most hit their mark. A car chase two thirds into the film goes on a bit too long, but it is resolved rather cleverly. The cast all performs ably, and while no one hits a sour note, no one is really outstanding either. Except for Cruise, who nails his character perfectly. There aren’t any real surprising twists and turns that you won’t see coming. Even the climactic gun battle (which reunites Cruise with his co-star from Days of Thunder, Robert Duvall) is fairly bloodless. It has its moments, due mainly to Duvall’s character, but it’s a far cry from the epic and bloody gunfights of a movie like a Django Unchained.
Even with these flaws, Jack Reacher is entertaining and holds your interest throughout. It may not be the loudest or flashiest action flick out there, but it gets the job done. Worth your time.
Jack Reacher is now available on DVD and Blu-ray.
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