Christopher McQuarrie | 125 mins | streaming (HD) | 2.35:1 | USA / English | 15 / PG-13
I don’t like Lee Child. I’ve never read one of his novels, but I’ve read and seen interviews with him, and always felt he comes across as intensely pompous and irritating. I disclose this up front because it leaves me predisposed to dislike Jack Reacher, the first (they hope) movie adaptation from Child’s series of novels starring ex-military policeman and now all-purpose vigilante Jack (you guessed it) Reacher.
They’ve presumably gone down the name-as-title route for brand recognition value; plus to give them the choice to call the sequel simply Jack Reacher 2, because, as we all know, a series needs the same umbrella title on every entry to succeed — just look at the billion-dollar earnings of James Bond 23. (Oh wait, no.) The film is actually adapted from Child’s ninth Reacher tome, One Shot, which concerns a retired sniper who kills five civilians with six shots. When arrested, all he says is, “get Jack Reacher”. But Reacher isn’t his friend — thanks to past crimes, Reacher wants to see the man go down. But only if he’s actually guilty…
Writer-director Christopher McQuarrie (writer of The Usual Suspects, and The Wolverine script that Darren Aronofsky loved but James Mangold clearly felt could be improved(!)) has delivered an enthralling action-thriller with an unusual-these-days emphasis on the thriller part. There’s still a well-executed car chase, an epic punchy-shooty climax, and the odd spot of running and fighting along the way, but primarily this is a mystery that our heroes must wind their way through. It’s an intriguing yarn, which unfurls neatly to a largely satisfying climax. How much you consider the twists to be twisty will depend on which suspects your guesswork picks out, but in that regard it’s as strong as other similar genre examples.
Whether Cruise is a good fit for the literary Reacher (“literary” is a bit of a stretch, isn’t it?) I don’t know, but he’s as likeable a leading man as ever (i.e. if you don’t like him normally, this won’t change your mind), albeit a little terser than usual. I’d happily watch a sequel, let’s put it that way, and I’m very nearly tempted to pick up one of the books. There’s strong support from Rosamund Pike as the accused’s legal defender, and an array of fun cameo-sized supporting roles, which you may have heard about but, in case you haven’t, I shan’t spoil. (I mean, their names are on the poster, but I’d somehow missed that.)
A general apathy from cinema audiences (read: low box office) and Child’s fans declaiming Cruise’s casting (he’s far too short) may have led to the impression that Jack Reacher was a mediocre offering. Happily, that’s not the case. If anything, it’s underrated — the final product is a classily-made thriller that merits your time.
This review is part of the 100 Films Advent Calendar 2013. Read more here.