DIRECTOR: Christopher McQuarrie
CAST: Tom Cruise, Robert Duval, Richard Jenkins, Rosamund Pike, Werner Herzog, David Oyelowo
RUNNING TIME: 131 minutes
It is December, so a Tom Cruise block-buster must be lurking on the horizon, but this one is going to surprise you.
Over the years Cruise has made it his signature in the big movies to play the likeable nice guy with all the gadgets, who can kick ass and get the girl.
The Jack Reacher character (based on Lee Child’s novels), though, is all about doing what is right, doesn’t care too much about how he gets along with the next person and stays under the radar, seeing as he lives a pretty much paper trailless existence.
The tone of the film is surprisingly dark in a nihilistic way, with the character choosing to place himself outside American society, yet highly curious about the whole idea of freedom which he, as a soldier, was meant to protect.
Cruise scowls his way through the film and though he never truly disappears into the role as we know he is capable of doing, this is a crowd pleaser. His Reacher cracks dry jokes at the expense of others and fights for truth, justice and the American way, but not at the behest of the government or even for money, but on behalf of the innocent.
He is violent in an extremely ruthless and practical way, so the film doesn’t display the gratuitous violence of say, The Expendables or its ilk, plus he actually thinks about his actions.
Reacher is an ex investigator for the army – a policeman if you will – who gets drawn into the investigation and prosecution of a sniper who kills five people.
He helps the defence lawyer Helen Rodin (Pike) investigate the case and gets drawn into a huge conspiracy.
Rosamund Pike’s big round eyes makes her look permanently surprised (though nowhere near as much as Amanda Seyfried and her Bambi caught-in-the-headlights look), but she brings a welcome and real warmth to the character to counterbalance Cruise’s more studied disengagement.
Rodin is careful to work within the scope of the law, while Reacher does what is right, so their arguments about what to do next are an interesting study in legality versus morality, with the added bonus of being real as opposed to philosophical.
The film plays out like a 1970s action thriller with plenty of twists and turns to keep your attention with smart pacing and pretty much constant action of some kind.
Robert Duval pops up in a delightful cameo while Werner Herzog puts in a surprise appearance as a scary bad guy, something he should do more often – he’s quite convincing.
While some of the character-isations and plot leave a bit to be desired, on the whole it works as a fun popcorn muncher that asks you to pay attention, but not stretch the grey matter too much.