JACK REACHER is an action/mystery/thriller directed by Christopher McQuarrie (THE WAY OF THE GUN) and starring Tom Cruise (MISSION IMPOSSIBLE: GHOST PROTOCOL). The film is based on a character that has already starred in 17 books written by author Lee Child with even more to come. I have only read the first 2 books in the “Jack Reacher” series of novels and I plan on reading more for sure. They are well written thrillers with bursts of intense and bloody violence. There are a slew of interesting characters and Reacher himself is a force to be reckoned with. Once I heard a movie was being made starring Tom Cruise, I was extremely excited. This film adaptation stays true to the spirit of the books as far as I can tell and easily ranks as one of my favorite films of 2013.
JACK REACHER is based on the 9th book in the series titled ONE SHOT. It tells the story of how Reacher, an Ex-military policeman turned drifter, gets mixed up in a mystery surrounding the deaths of 5 people in a public sniper shooting. The man accused claims he is innocent and writes the words “Get Jack Reacher” on a piece of paper while in critical condition in a hospital bed. The story that ensues is full of twists and turns as we discover who was responsible for the murders and why Jack Reacher is involved. This film has a great pace to it with no dull moments I can think of. There are moments of mystery, intense action (more on that later), and suspense along with some comical moments to break up the seriousness. While I can see some people taking issue with the humor in this film, I found it to be welcoming and Reacher is a pretty funny Straight-to-the-point kind of guy. He lets you know what he is thinking and often says what most of us only wish we would. While the overall story here is fun, it’s pretty by-the-books. That’s not to say it’s a bad or boring story, it’s just not overly complex and some of the twists can be seen a mile away. That said, the film is still fun and the story is enjoyable enough. JACK REACHER is very much a character piece and Tom Cruise delivers 100% in this one!
A lot of fans cried fowl when they heard that Tom Cruise was going to be playing Jack Reacher in the film adaptation. In the novels, Reacher is a 6 foot 5 inch beast of a man who could squash your head like a grape if instigated. Tom Cruise this is not…physically. Jack Reacher is a man of intensity and ferociousness. His brutal side is often juxtaposed with a more stoic and intelligent side with a dash of romance and humor mixed in. In my opinion Tom Cruise IS the man to play Jack Reacher and he does so flawlessly. You know who else shares my opinion? The creator of Jack Reacher Lee Child himself. He has stated on many occasion that the brute force of the character has always been more metaphysical and that Cruise captures the intensity and ferociousness of the character stunningly. So really if the creator of the character is happy with it, so should you. JACK REACHER really is a character piece of a movie and I find it hard to imagine any other actors working today that could handle this role as well as Cruise. I will admit that this movie would be a lot less enjoyable from a story and action point-of-view if Cruise was not the lead. Gushing aside, Cruise is smooth, romantic, and funny in this film and when he wants to turn it on, he is intense, brutal, and relentless. Damn! More gushing! To sum it up, this is a great new film character for Cruise that I hope to see again!
The “Reacher” novels are also know for having an eclectic supporting cast full of romantic interests, oddball goons, various law enforcement agents, great villains, and so on. JACK REACHER on film is no different. Rosamund Pike (007: DIE ANOTHER DAY) plays Helen who is the closest thing to a love interest we get here and she doubles as a defense attorney charged with defending the man everyone thinks is guilty for a brutal killing. Her screen time with Cruise is fun and there is a chemistry between the two that lights up from time to time without being a distraction. I like her in this role even if she looks wide-eyed and bat shit scared most of the time. I guess she gets a pass here because this story is full of pretty scary scenarios for her. Richard Jenkins (CABIN IN THE WOODS) plays her father who happens to be her boss which causes a bunch of conflict itself. The main thing I want to say about Jenkins is that this man is awesome in everything he is in and my only complaint is that we don’t get to see enough of him and his talents in almost everything he is in. He does a fine job here, but I just want to see more of him. There are also a few unexpected surprises in this film in the form of Robert Duvall (THE GODFATHER) as Cash, a veteran sniper who owns a run-down shooting range, and Werner Herzog (GRIZZLY MAN) as our main villain simply named The Zec, which means “The Prisoner”. Duvall is an awesome supporting character here who aids Reacher in his hunt for the murderer and has a handful of great lines and moments with Cruise. Herzog as the villainous The Zec was a very creative and inspired choice here. While his screen time is minimal and he serves mostly as a puppet master, Herzog will go down as one hell of a creepy villain that makes you feel uncomfortable whenever he is on screen. Well done. Besides those main players, all the other supports do a fantastic job creating an eccentric and colorful ensemble cast. I really enjoyed all the characters in this film, even the thugs and peripheral characters that just served to move things along.
If there’s one thing the Jack Reacher novels are remembered for it’s the moments of intense and brutal violence. JACK REACER has this in spades and really pushes the PG-13 rating is holds. When I first read that JACK REACHER was a PG-13 affair I was really bummed out because I knew how brutal the books were. After seeing this movie, I am not disappointed at all. McQuarrie does a fine job directing the action sequences here and shows you more than enough to feel the brutality of Cruise’s character. The intro to this movie itself was quite alarming and tragically violent. It really helped set the tone for this film and the seriousness of the murder case. As for Cruise himself, JACK REACHER displays some of the coolest and most brutal action scenes yet for Cruise. The only movie I can think of that tops his violence level here is his role in the amazing film COLLATERAL. I imagine the Blu-Ray release of this film will have an “Unrated” version that may add a bit more to the fight sequences, but what we got here was satisfying enough. Cruise really knows how to kick ass and I can think of 3 awesome fight sequences off the top of my head that had me feeling the pain Reacher was dishing out. Very cool stuff here. As an action movie junkie, I was satisfied. For some reason I get a real kick out of it when Cruise is deep in a fist fight with someone and starts utilizing his elbows and fists in brutal combos. He did it at the end of MISSION IMPOSSIBLE 3 and here in JACK REACHER. Cruise is such a bad ass!
At the end of the day, after all the anticipation, I am very happy with how JACK REACHER turned out. Sure the story is pretty standard (but fun!) with a few twists and turns here and there, but that’s not what this movie is all about. It’s about a character and what he does when pushed to the limit. Jack Reacher is a mysterious drifter with a very specific set of skills with an even more mysterious past. Cruise plays this character flawlessly giving audiences a real great character to root for that is stoic, romantic, funny, brutal, and bad ass! The eccentric supporting cast is fun and features a few unexpected gems in the form of Duvall and Herzog. On top of all the JACK REACHER features a handful of extremely well choreographed action sequences proving once again that Cruise still has it! JACK REACHER comes highly recommended and I find it hard to imagine someone not having a fun time with this one.
Final Score: 9 out of 10