Film Review – Jack Reacher
Amidst all the hustle and bustle of the holiday awards season comes a little action film called Jack Reacher. I’m being a bit facetious when I say that, given that it is produced by and starring one Tom Cruise. Whether or not you like him as a person, it’s hard to refute the notion that this is a guy who wants to entertain and is willing to go to surprising lengths to do that. He’ll play a stone cold killer (Collateral, 2004), a repugnant music executive (Tropic Thunder, 2008), and even a rock god (Rock of Ages, 2012). Here, he returns to familiar action territory as the title character—a skilled ex-soldier who is proficient with weaponry and has the ability to disappear when needed. Add to that the contribution of writer/director Christopher McQuarrie, and we have something that won’t garner any awards, but will engage our interests throughout its runtime.
There is an old school feel going on here. In a time where nearly all action movies are overly hectic and disjointed, that comes as a welcomed relief. We aren’t bombarded with quick cuts or booming soundtracks. Much of the action is dictated by suspense and strategy. This helps make the main character who he is. Jack is a former soldier with so many medals that it is borderline ridiculous. This tells us that Jack is not the type to jump into any situation. He thinks logically, determining the moves of both himself and his enemies. Even when we think he’s doing something stupid, there is a smart reason behind it. This gives him the ability to blend into his surroundings, especially if he’s investigating a dangerous case. I think Batman may have found an adversary in this one.
Jack’s talents are called upon by Helen (Rosamund Pike), a defense attorney. Helen has taken a case involving a random shooting that left five victims dead. Authorities captured the sniper and are ready to shut the case, when the suspect claims his innocence and requests Jack by name to help him. From here, we follow Jack (hired by Helen to be her homicide investigator) as he roams around town, searching for clues toward any kind of shady business involving the shooting. I got a kick from seeing Jack shuffle through all the hints in his mind. From the slightest detail, he can conclude what people are thinking or what their motivations are. Oh, and he can kick ass when necessary, too. In a way, he’s like a military-trained Sherlock Holmes, with Helen as his Dr. Watson. As Jack unravels the plot, we—along with Helen—think, “How the hell did he come up with that?”
If I’d written a list of all the people that could have potentially been good acting in this film, I would have never considered Werner Herzog. This is the man who has directed ambitious work such as Aguirre: The Wrath of God (1972), Fitzcarraldo (1982), and Encounters at the End of the World (2007). He made a career out of looking deeply into the recesses of the human soul. With that said, somehow his casting feels oddly appropriate. I won’t describe what the purpose of his character “The Zec” is, but I will say that he is not featured all that often. However, even with his limited screen time, McQuarrie makes the most of it. McQuarrie’s writing (which is consistently sharp and funny) utilizes Herzog’s odd, German-accented delivery. When he has his monologue involving extreme acts of survival, I laughed at how incredibly weird yet awesome the whole scene was.
The tone hints at being slightly tongue in cheek. It’s as though McQuarrie is making a classical action movie, while having some fun with the tropes that come with it. This is mostly seen through Cruise’s performance. He plays Jack as somewhat disconnected, like he has seen this all before and is just going through the steps again, one at a time. When Jack has a fight with some ruffians at a bar, he makes it well known that he can predict exactly what will ensue, even calling out the ones that will turn and run with their tails between their legs. Jack must really be tired of having to deal with the same idiotic bad guys all the time. Some may think that Cruise comes off as being disinterested, but I think there’s more going on when taking into account the somewhat satiric nature of the work.
Jack Reacher is one of those movies that’s good at filling time. There are issues to point out. The plot is fairly predictable, even when the mystery was slightly incoherent. At certain points I wasn’t sure who was involved in what, but I had an inkling of how things would end up, and sure enough that’s how they went. And whatever development there was for Helen as a character gets washed away to make room for Jack’s “hero moment.” But, regardless of its problems, this was still a fun movie, with good dialogue and some nice supporting work. It won’t change the world, but honestly, it doesn’t need to.
Final Grade: B