Movie Review: Jack Reacher
Austin360.com | Austin American-Statesman
“Jack Reacher” opens with a chilling scene: A sniper drives to a parking garage, sets up a gun with a scope and begins to shoot people who are walking below. He kills five people, including a woman who accompanies a small girl.
A suspect is quickly arrested, but we know that he’s not the guilty party. We’ve seen the face of the real sniper. And the suspect refuses to answer police questions. He just scrawls a note on a pad: “Get Jack Reacher.”
So begins a holiday movie that’s clearly meant to be the beginning of a franchise, with Tom Cruise starring as Reacher, a former military investigator who lives off the grid and has a brutal knack for solving crimes and killing those responsible. It’s based on the thriller “One Shot,” one in a series by Lee Childs that features Jack Reacher.
But the release of the movie is problematic, in part because it’s coming shortly after the school shooting in Newtown, Conn. Paramount decided to cancel its world premiere in Pittsburgh on Saturday because of the obvious parallels. Director Christoper McQuarrie has supported the studio’s decision, telling The Wrap that “nobody should be celebrating anything 24 hours after a tragic event like that.”
But here’s an important point: The Jack Reacher novels have been successful for their tight plotting, for their imaginative twists — but primarily for their promise that the motives of the killers will be fully explained and that they’ll be tracked down and punished, sometimes literally being beaten to death by the physically formidable Reacher. For many, that kind of description might sound horrible. But McQuarrie, who wrote the screenplay, makes the villains so despicable that bloodlust doesn’t seem completely off base, even if it is ill-timed.
Whatever your decision, “Jack Reacher” provides what fans of the books will want to see. After the casting of the diminutive Cruise in the title role, some of those fans questioned how Cruise would be able to believably portray Reacher, who’s described as 6-foot-5-inches tall. But Cruise brings a physicality to the movie that’s never in doubt. And his ruthless, intelligent pursuit of the truth can’t help but be thrilling, especially when you consider that his pursuit of truth includes some expertly filmed car chases.
Rosamund Pike more than delivers as the defense attorney for the man falsely accused of being the sniper. She’s attracted to Reacher, who has only one shirt and decides to wash it in front of her as she visits him in a motel room. (Reacher travels light.) At 50, Cruise is justifiably proud of maintaining his torso, and he seems determined to share his pride in nearly every movie. At least Pike has an amusing reaction as she watches him go through the motions of his inevitable bare-chested strut.
Werner Herzog also captures the creepy villainy of a Russian mobster who literally had to chew off his own fingers in order to survive a long-ago imprisonment.
But credit for the success of “Jack Reacher” has to go to McQuarrie, whose only previous feature was 2000’s “The Way of the Gun.” McQuarrie is primarily known for writing the 1995 hit “The Usual Suspects,” and he’s set to direct the next installment of “Mission: Impossible.” That’s promising, because he seems to “get” the essence of Cruise, and he knows how to pace and frame intense action sequences.
The question, of course, is whether you’re ready for a dark thriller as the memories of Newtown linger.