That Tom Cruise intensity fuels a refreshingly old school, stylish and brutally violent murder mystery. Its name: Jack Reacher.
The film opens with a chilling and calculated act of violence, as a sniper drives to the top of a parking garage, assembles his rifle, and randomly guns down five unsuspecting victims in cold blood. It’s a sequence that is as breathtaking in its technicality as it is in its inhumanity, and sets the tone for this tale of justice both tenacious and decisive.
Dispensing that justice is Jack Reacher, a former military investigator turned avenging nomad, created and made famous by author Lee Childs through nine novels.
Cast as Reacher is Tom Cruise and reaction was decisively negative by fans of the novels who felt Cruise lacked certain characteristics (his brown hair and height) to portray the character. It’s a situation that reminds of when Cruise was cast as the monstrous vampire Lestat in Interview with a Vampire, and like that scenario his detractors will be eating crow because Cruise owns the role of Jack Reacher, channelling that now patented intensity and physicality into a character who is part urban legend, part superhero and all around no BS taking anti-hero.
Both Jack Reacher the character and the movie remind of the macho crime thrillers of the late 60s/early 70s (one can imagine Steve McQueen play the role), where anti-heroes of high principal and low remorse reigned. It was also a time where great villains were created and Jack Reacher has a couple of strong bad guys itself with Australian actor Jai Courtney (who will next appear as John McLane’s son in A Good Day to Die Hard) providing the physical barbarity, and a brilliantly cast Werner Herzog giving a chilling performance as the dark and mysterious architect of evil The Zec.
Adapted and directed by Christopher McQuarrie (he who won a screenplay Oscar for The Usual Suspects), Jack Reacher projects a shiny exterior yet there is an anger simmering underneath the surface that bubbles over as the film progresses. It’s definitely one of the first films in a while to place a heavy emphasis on the repercussions of violence, with those slain in the opening minutes given a face, name and family in mourning.
McQuarrie combines that emotion with a taught screenplay and slick direction, making Jack Reacher not only a thinking man’s action/thriller but one with gritty passion and a hero able to walk tall, out-think, chew gum and kick ass with brunt force violence at the same time.
This is McQuarrie’s second directing gig after the underrated crime thriller The Way of the Gun which was released 12 years ago and he has proving himself to be quite the filmmaker. Rumour has it that he’s in contention to direct the new Mission: Impossible movie. If this collaboration with Cruise is any indication, then it’s a partnership worth watching again.