Monday, 24 December 2012


A loose cannon. A firebrand. A maverick, if you will. That’s how the character of Jack Reacher might have been described in the past. That said he’s still described in similarly hoary terms in this film; as the eponymous character himself puts it, he’s a “drifter with nothing to lose”. He certainly doesn’t play by the rules, or the law. He has no fixed home and moves from town to town wherever he’s needed.

It begins with a near silent ten minute opening as we watch a sniper coldly dispatch civilians. As an audience we’re positioned as the shooter and it makes for an uncomfortable watch. We see his point of view through his telescopic sight and the only sounds to accompany it are his measured breaths and isolated cracks of gunfire.

A potted history of Jack Reacher (Tom Cruise) reveals he’s a former military policeman who lives off-grid without any documentation or means of contact. He is called for by the supposed perpetrator and hooks up with his defence attorney Helen Rodin (Rosamund Pike) to investigate the situation surrounding the shooting, much to the chagrin of Helen’s father and local DA (Richard Jenkins) and dogged cop, Emerson (David Oyelowo).

Based on the ninth novel in Lee Child’s series of phenomenally successful Jack Reacher thrillers and adapted and directed by Christopher McQuarrie, best known for writing The Usual Suspects, the film has some pedigree behind it. Fans of the novels might be forgiven for doubting the casting of Cruise as a character known for being a man mountain but his hard-bitten performance, coupled with no mean amount of low-angle shots, gives him the presence required if not the stature.

Considering the hot button topic of gun control at the film’s core and the serious investigative elements that drive the plot, there’s still a place for blasts of humour – though some of it works better than others. While Cruise’s witty put downs to local hoods come with the twinkly charm we would expect from such a polished Hollywood presence, other moments offer a jarring change of tone just when things are getting going. It’s undeniably funny but there’s no rhyme or reason behind featuring a three-way fight scene with choreography that wouldn’t look out of place in a Three Stooges short. It sticks out like an appendage with an anvil-based injury among all the muscular, calculated set pieces of the rest of the film.

The film’s comedic ace comes in the inclusion of Robert Duvall as Cash, a rifle range owner who becomes the focus of part of the investigation. His presence paves the way for a double act of sorts with Cruise. Duvall’s no-nonsense, grizzled charm and laid back approach is the perfect foil for Cruise’s always-thinking Reacher.

The arrival of film director Werner Herzog playing the film’s chief villain, The Zec, marks a distinct uptick. He gives an icy performance as the milky-eyed mastermind but as soon as you hear that mellifluous Teutonic lilt it’s difficult not to bring to mind the weight of Herzog’s own personality, which does slightly overshadow the role. He’s given an opening monologue involving a Siberian prison and a “dead man’s coat” which certainly has all the hallmarks of one of his own voiceovers. His unflinching granite countenance makes a memorable impact each time he appears on screen but the real problem is that there’s just not enough of him.

Reacher aside, most of the characters are given short shrift. There isn't often a clarity to their motivations and many, particularly Pike's, are given little in the way of development. As if it weren't already clear from the above-title opening credits, where it declares this is 'A Tom Cruise Production' and stars Tom Cruise, by the end you are in no doubt this is unreservedly Tom Cruise's film.

While Reacher displays the unstoppable tendencies of a master tactician for most of the duration, it’s a welcome change when it comes to a bone-rattling car chase where he’s refreshingly rubbish; constantly clipping other vehicles and pinballing off sidings. It gives him a human side and shows he’s skilled but not prone to perfection. The rest of the action has the cool distance of being relatively long range and doesn’t feel a million miles away from watching someone play a first-person shooter game like Call of Duty or Medal of Honor. It lacks immediacy and, as a result, often feels anticlimactic.

As a throwback to the crime thrillers of a bygone era it's a success but it suffers slightly from being just too long. It’s some time before it really gets going and even by the end it’s not entirely clear just how some elements fit together. McQuarrie has a streamlined narrative in place but with the added burden of having to introduce Reacher for a presumed future franchise it buckles slightly under the pressure. Fewer characters – particularly of the disposable variety – and the removal of clearly telegraphed character shifts would have made for a tighter, tenser ride.

It’s a film of two halves and invariably the quieter dialogue scenes work far better than the protracted forays into action. There’s plenty mileage in Reacher as a character, even though it isn’t fully explored here, but the fact he isn’t motivated by financial gain, or just in the wrong place at the wrong time, makes him interesting in the canon of big screen heroes. While inevitable elements of the White Knight trope creep in, there is darkness to him rarely witnessed in his contemporaries.


1 comment:

  1. its another boring movie from tom cruise. He has forgotten how to chose a good movie and how to act. May be due to his personal issues, he is not able to concentrate on his career.