I’ve never read any of Lee Child’s novels which serve as the basis for this film (it’s based on book #9 in the series, “One Shot”), but after seeing this impressively entertaining thriller I plan to start.
After a horrific sniper attack in a public park an ex-military man is blamed for the incident, and in turn requests that the mysterious Jack Reacher (Tom Cruise) be brought in to prove his innocence. Reacher, an ex-military police officer, teams up with the defense attorney (Rosamund Pike) appointed to the case to look into the facts and discovers a conspiracy that could get them both killed.
The trailers made this procedural thriller look like an entry in the Mission: Impossible series and I am here to tell you that it is anything but. I was surprised, and gladly so, that this ended up being the former. Basically it’s a big budget feature length version of the first half of an episode of Law & Order which follows the police investigation of the shooting which kicks off the story.
Tom Cruise downplays the character as a gloomy loner who would rather just do his thing and be left alone, but due to his insane talent for performing thorough investigations he has developed a reputation for being the man to look up when someone wants to find out the truth about any given situation. While Reacher does share some of the same talents as Ethan Hunt, be it ass kicking or stunt driving, he diverges from that in the way his character interacts with others. Often quick with a sarcastic, or even insulting, quip on the tip of his tongue as well as being able to size up and formulate a plan to deal with any situation in a matter of seconds, Reacher is basically an autistic genius. Whip smart and no social skills sums up the character in a nutshell, and Cruise plays the part to the hilt. He continues to impress me even at age 50.
Writer/director Christopher McQuarrie, who penned most of Bryan Singer’s non-X-Men films (The Usual Suspects, Valkyrie, Jack the Giant Slayer) and directed the crime thriller The Way of the Gun, has always had a knack for creating sharp and snappy dialogue. He excels in that department here. There are scenes that feature such clever rapid fire dialogue exchanges that I was in hog’s heaven (one in particular reminded me of the opening scene of The Way of the Gun, only with 100% less profanity). He also creates interestingly flawed characters, and even though Jack Reacher is a creation of Lee Child and I don’t know anything about how he was originally written, I can only imagine that McQuarrie added a few details of his own to round out the character and make him the fascinating person I saw on the screen.
Unfortunately he doesn’t really have any particular style to his direction. Sure he gets his actors to turn in uniformly good performances (although Rosamund Pike has a tendency to stare wide eyed into space for no reason at all), but the horrific sniper scene aside there were no standout shots that took my attention. It was a basic “shoot and move on” type of film. Something a little more flashy would have gone a long way to sell certain scenes. The car chase is a prime example of this. Sure it’s shot in a way that’s easy to follow and is exciting, but a few crazy angles or something to spice it up could have made it classic. As it is it’s just an average action scene.
The story takes a nice amount of time to get to the bottom of the conspiracy, and while I did enjoy the investigation aspects of the film the finale left a lot to be desired. Sure there’s a pretty cool gunfight and an overly short fistfight with the main henchman (Jai Courtney from Spartacus: Blood and Sand and the upcoming A Good Day to Die Hard), but the final scene with the main villain, a creepy acting turn from director Werner Herzog, just isn’t completely satisfying. Sure the character gets what he deserves, but the scene just ends. I understand that in reality that’s most likely the way it would’ve gone down, but for a movie it’s slightly anticlimactic. However, the following scene more than makes up for it in emotional content.
I know I’m making the movie sound bad, but I am just nitpicking the flaws I saw. I actually really enjoyed it; the character of Reacher is interesting and the investigation story sucked me in and held me for its entire runtime, lame ending or not. I like McQuarrie as a director even though I think he needs to step up his visual style before moving on to his next directorial gig, Mission: Impossible 5. As it is I am excited by the prospect of this becoming a feature film franchise. I can’t wait for the further investigations of Jack Reacher.