Crime and Intrigue – There have been hundreds of action thrillers to hit the big screen over the years, some good and some bad. And while that’s not some big secret, the one aspect of these films you rarely get is a well-written script. Maybe that’s because of the genre or maybe it’s because the producers and/or directors don’t really care to have a good story accompany all the action and special effects. Yeah, they may act like they do, but outside of the “Bourne” series, we simply have not seen an action thriller come out and impress the way “Jack Reacher” did with me.
What’s it about? The story, for those non-Lee Child readers like me, is adapted from his 2005 novel One Shot, based on a random shooting massacre that turns out to be not so random. From the start, the crime scene was nearly perfect leading to a trail that was almost too good to be true. The accused was a former Army sniper by the name of James Barr (Joseph Sikora), who when asked only said two things, “They got the wrong guy” and “Get Jack Reacher.” Those two statements didn’t hold a lot of water until a Jack Reacher (Tom Cruise) showed up willing to help. Reacher was a former Army Military Police Officer who went off the grid after some questionable events years prior. With virtually no money, job or home, Reacher took a bus to Pittsburgh to hopefully fulfill a promise he made the last time he saw Barr, which was to bring him down if he ever committed an act like this again. Turns out Barr was set free after a similar killing spree while on assignment in Afghanistan, so Reacher knew exactly what to look for. But, after putting all the clues together alongside defense lawyer Helen Rodin (Rosamund Pike), something wasn’t right, leading to a thrilling conclusion full of intrigue that even Reacher could have never predicted.
Who was in it? It almost goes without saying that when Tom Cruise is starring in a film, people take notice. That can be a good thing or bad thing depending on who you ask, but for this biased fan, it’s roles like this that tend to get overlooked. I realize it’s not what people expect or want from Cruise, but the reality is he’s good in these darker or more mysterious roles like this and the one in “Collateral.” And here, he was up against it from the word ‘go’ when fans of the book said he was not big or tall enough. But, as the author Lee Child said himself, “With another actor you might get 100% of the height but only 90% of Reacher. With Tom, you’ll get 100% of Reacher with 90% of the height.” That speaks volumes from where I sit and why I’m excited to see what comes next in future sequels from this famed literary protagonist. With that said, Cruise was not alone in this film, as the great Richard Jenkins made appeared for a scene or two. But, this was not his film to make a supporting mark in, it was Robert Duvall’s, who teamed up with Cruise for the second time in his illustrious career to play gun range owner Cash. What a pair these two are, some 22 years after their undervalued work in “Days of Thunder.” And here, with limited time, Duvall made his impact, allowing the audience to see Reacher through a different set of eyes, unlike the rest of the characters.
The unusual suspect – A lot of people have no clue who Christopher McQuarrie is, but should based on his brief, yet impressive resume. A guy who won an Oscar at age 28 for his work with “The Usual Suspects” screenplay, also wrote the screenplay for the 2008 Oscar-nominated film “Valkyrie.” That alone is at least enough to give this guy a fair shake at any film he writes or directs, but here he did both. And while that might not be news for say a Christopher Nolan or James Cameron, it is for McQuarrie who is in talks to get the writing/directing gig for the next “Mission Impossible.” Judging purely off of “Jack Reacher,” that would be fine by me as nothing seemed to be overdone or undervalued. The sound was uncharacteristically accurate at times, which for this type of film is not always the case. Plus, he took Lee Child’s own words and adapted them in a way that should not only delight the fans of the book, but introduce a non-reader like myself to a dynamic character like Jack Reacher. And I think that’s where this film shines the most and several times I noticed some dialogue that could only be pulled from a paperback crime thriller like One Shot. That was cool and only added to the feel of this film, which was raw and uninhibited. Plus, the added drama from the legal side of this story was fun to endure almost taking me back to films like “A Time to Kill” or even “The Firm.” So, pay no attention to the less than stellar reviews and trust Tom Cruise, because how often does he let you down?
Bottom Line – “Jack Reacher” is a name that you need to know and if you really want to know why, go watch this film inspired by a novel and see why fans were so passionate with their feelings upon hearing that their famed character was going to the big screen.
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