Review: Jack Reacher

Directed by: Christopher McQuarrie.

Starring: Tom Cruise, Rosamund Pike, Richard Jenkins, David Oyelowo, Werner Herzog, Robert Duvall, Jai Courtney.

Rating:   Running Time: 130 mins.

Based on the book ‘One Shot’ by Lee Child, the movie starts with a particularly unsettling opening scene where a sniper shoots five people in Pittsburg. Within hours police have a suspect, James Barr, a discharged army sharpshooter who is arrested and held in custody in an apparently open and shut case. For 16 hours in police interrogation Barr says nothing, and then writes down three words on a notepad – ‘Get Jack Reacher’ – a former Army investigator who is as close to being a ghost without actually being dead.

Due to history with Barr, Reacher comes forward to the district attorney after seeing the news about the shootings, but when they deny him access to the evidence and he’s about to leave town, Barr’s lawyer Helen Rodin (Rosamund Pike) offers him a chance to look at the evidence if he takes a job as her investigator. After doing so, Reacher checks over the evidence, and finds that he has more questions than answers.

Let me start by saying that even though Christopher McQuarrie doesn’t have a huge list of credits to his name, one of them is his writing of The Usual Suspects, a movie that is quite rightly considered one of the best movies ever made. His other credit includes cult thriller The Way Of The Gun which he not only wrote but also directed. Both movies are hard edged, gritty thrillers and I’m glad to say that, though it’s been targeted at a 12A audience (the BBFC lowered the rating from a 15 after 2 seconds were cut from a suffocation scene), this movie is every bit as gritty. With Jack Reacher, McQuarrie has established he has a solid visible style with only two directorial titles under his belt, no small feat. He also has a hand in the writing of this, and again, the quality proves that The Usual Suspects was no accident.

I went into this with no knowledge of the books other than what fans had been ranting about when it was first announced that Cruise was going to play Reacher. In the books Reacher is described as being a heck of a lot taller and more muscled frame than that of Cruise. And fair enough, if this is a character that you’ve been invested in for 17 books you’re going to have a mental image of what that character looks like. But for me, had the character been played by someone more like the character is described, I’m not sure I would have bought the character. His skills in fighting – which are shown a fair amount in the movie – come from his intelligence, not from his strength. Someone who’s built a lot larger and stronger would not be as tactically a fighter as they would have not needed to hone these skills. If there’s anyone who is determined to avoid this movie because Cruise is playing Reacher, I urge them to strongly reconsider.

The performances are faultless, Cruise in particular is great in the role. Even if you’re not a fan you have to admit that he never phones it in and this is no exception. Again, I haven’t read the books so can’t say how his performance compares against the books, but I had absolutely no problems with him in this. All of the cast, Rosamund Pike, Richard Jenkins, David Oyelowo and Robert Duvall are great. Most surprising of all is a turn by director Werner Herzog as the head villain in the movie, though a simple performance, he undeniably is a great screen presence, and does a great job of being intimidating on the screen. Though his main henchman, played by Jai Courtney, comes across as somewhat bland, it’s not long before you start to realise that it’s another solid performance showing a cold, hardened killer.

One other thing that stands out is the cinematography by Caleb Deschanel, who worked on my favourite movie of 2012, William Friedkin’s Killer Joe. Here there’s been great care taken to create some visually interesting shots throughout. The opening sniper sequence, though topically disturbing, is particularly meticulous. Another thing of mention is that there seems to be a lack of special effects throughout the movie, with most sequences, including a great car chase (which may be the best one to feature a muscle car since Bullitt) being shot for real. These sequences are well edited and easy to follow.

With a solid script, great action, a good plot, as well as elements of humour, Christopher McQuarrie has made Jack Reacher into a great action-thriller. The character at its core is one I look forwards to seeing more of, and there are certainly plenty of books to be adapted. Bond and Bourne fans should check this out as they’ll enjoy it, and they won’t be the only ones.

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Posted on December 22, 2012, in Reviews and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.

  1. I had sort of written this film off, but your review has convinced me to check it out on Blu-ray when it’s released. Nicely written.

    • Thanks, I’ll be interested to read your review and see what you made of it, have several movies that are finally coming out here in the UK after a delay from their US releases, Zero Dark Thirty, Wreck It Ralph (both of which i’m part way through writing up) as well as Flight, Lincoln, and Cloud Atlas, will be interesting to see if our views are similar or differ!

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