Twelve months ago, Tom Cruise scored his biggest ever box office hit, courtesy of Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol. It’s little coincidence then that Cruise and Paramount Pictures have tried to repeat the trick a year on, although the slightly darker tone suggests Jack Reacher will struggle to do quite the same level of business.
It’s an entertaining thriller nonetheless, one that’s been championed by and centred around Tom Cruise. Serving as star and producer, the bone of contention to this point has been his suitability to take on the role of the character as portrayed in the Lee Child’s books on which the film is based. The truth, of course, is that he doesn’t take on the exact same character, and inevitably, moving any such powerful figure from page to screen is going to raise concerns. For the purposes of Jack Reacher the movie, Tom Cruise is a solid choice. He’s about 40 per cent Ethan Hunt, with Reacher a quieter, although no less committed a character. He’s been borrowing costume tips from Taylor Lautner too.
Much of the press that surrounds Tom Cruise does overlook the fact that on top form he’s an excellent actor, and he once more proves that he’s a wise choice to base a Hollywood thriller around. His streak of committed confidence serves this movie well.
It won’t be him that you’re talking about on the way out of the multiplex though. As you scrape rogue popcorn off your clothing, it’s the scene-stealing Werner Herzog who’s surely set to be the topic of discussion. In much the same way that Alan Rickman breezed in from another film and stole Robin Hood: Prince Of Thieves from under the feet of anyone who moved, Herzog dominates the very few scenes he’s let near, even if at times some of the dialogue he’s spouting doesn’t seem to make much sense at all. That said, his first appearance, where he flings out his backstory and explains his finger deficiency is just priceless. He’s the best Bond villain the 007 series has never had.
However, the other hidden force behind Jack Reacher is Christopher McQuarrie, who’s adapted Lee Child’s book One Shot, and directed the film. It’s been a long, long time since McQuarrie helmed his debut movie, the underrated Way Of The Gun, and his composition of this film’s opening suggests we’ve been missing out. His opening set piece sets in train the mystery that brings the nomadic title character to the big screen, and it’s utterly compelling, carefully sliding crucial narrative clues into place. The film doesn’t sustain that level after that, sadly, but McQuarrie pulls together an excellent, roaring old-school car chase in the middle that pumps the adrenaline up once more.
Elsewhere, Rosamund Pike battles gamely with what’s she given, assuming the role of the person who basically has to explain to us who Reacher is and what the hell is going on. It’s a thankless task at times, as the narrative – while twisty – struggles to continually grip. Pike isn’t helped by the short shrift she’s given in the costume department either, as she’s given one or two outfits that seem a struggle to simply breathe in, let alone deliver important exposition.
That exposition doesn’t always bear too much close scrutiny, with Cruise’s Reacher at one point basically explaining something again so it makes a bit more sense. However, there are enough strands in place to keep the film motoring. And in the absence of much time with Werner Herzog (who apparently spent less than a week shooting his scenes), there’s always Jai Courtney’s perfectly acceptable henchman to come along, looking suitably balding and dangerous. Courtney may get a stronger role as John McClane’s son in A Good Day To Die Hard, but this is still a solid part, well played. Christopher McQuarrie also calls, wisely, on the services of experienced hands such as Robert Duvall and Six Feet Under’s Richard Jenkins to inject much added gravitas.
There’s a lot to like about Jack Reacher. It tests plausibility, certainly, although cinematic thrillers trade in this regularly. Furthermore, there are bursts of direction from McQuarrie that really impress. On the downside, it’s a film that’s running on fumes for the last ten to 15 minutes or so, with a daft denouement that’s only really saved by another fleetingly brief appearance from the remarkable Werner Herzog.
How well you take to Jack Reacher will, we suspect, depend on how much you want it to be like the books, and how much you want it to make sense. If it’s a good, solid, mildly barmy (but perhaps not barmy enough) thriller that you’re after though, then there’s plenty in the 130 minutes to warrant a ticket. And, perhaps, a sequel.
Jack Reacher opens in UK cinemas on the 26th December.
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