The trailer for Jack Reacher, Tom Cruise’s latest leading role, debuted on his milestone 50th birthday. But does the veteran action man still have what it takes to portray hard-nut characters?
Based on author Lee Child’s creation of the same name, Jack Reacher sees Cruise as a mysterious drifter with a military background. When a seemingly random sniper attack in a busy city occurs, police quickly arrest the culprit and are satisfied that it’s a simple open and closed case. But their suspect throws a spanner in the works when, during questioning, he solely writers “Get Jack Reacher”. Seeing the story on a news report, Reacher turns up at the police station unannounced. The prosecution are relieved that he arrives to help them, but Reacher digs a little deeper and comes back with far more than he, or anyone associated with the case, could ever have imagined.
The film garnered negative attention even before release due to the casting choice of Cruise: according to the novels, Reacher is well over 6 foot tall with blonde hair, whereas Tom is frequently ridiculed for his small stature. Surprisingly, his portrayal is spot on: physical appearance aside, Cruise is Reacher. Even though he isn’t getting any younger, he still manages to be a believable tough guy, with formidable skills with his fists and an enviable driving ability (he reportedly did his own stunt driving). Christopher McQuarrie’s script is packed with one liners, which go a long way in helping Cruise’s success; especially one particular scene in a bar with Reacher and a young girl. It’s a rare moment of comedy that is constantly tinged with tension, a balance that is extremely difficult to maintain.
It’s not only the snappy dialogue that should be applauded though: the film is far more intelligent than the trailer suggests. Make no mistake, this isn’t a brain melting, thought provoking thriller a la Inception, but neither is it the mindless actioner that many may have been expecting. The plot is, more often than not, propelled forward by revelations that are discovered by the power of deduction and conversation as opposed to the usual method of pummelling information out of a disposable henchman. At least, this is the case for the first act and half of the second, before it declines into a more straightforward, violence driven finale. It’s unfortunate that it comes to that, but it also solidifies Reacher’s proficiency in combat, as there’s not a whole lot of action that precedes it. The pacing is, at times, noticeably slow but every scene has a fresh revelation regarding the story, so it just about gets away with it.
Richard Jenkins, who is worryingly becoming a ‘stock’ suit character, plays the District Attorney, but it’s hardly a challenge for him and his character arc is just as uninspiring. His ability is not in question, but he never really seems fully invested in a personality that we’ve seen so many times before. Rosamund Pike is irritatingly wide eyed and forgettable as Helen, the woman tasked with defending the arrested sniper, whereas respected director Werner Herzog is on the opposite end of the scale, giving a fantastic turn as ‘The Zec’. Screen legend Robert Duvall also makes an appearance as a shooting range owner. His experience is instrumental in giving this role far more than it probably needed, and seeing the icon back on the screen at the young age of 82 is a joy.
Jack Reacher benefits greatly from not revealing all its cards at once. Otherwise, it would have been ‘just another action movie’. The background of Reacher isn’t as fully developed as it could have been, but with plans of a sequel this could be easily remedied. Cruise impresses greatly in the leading role, and proves once and for all that size really doesn’t matter.