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Movie review: Jack Reacher

Updated on December 15, 2012

It's difficult to believe what's the more impressive: that Tom Cruise is 50 years old, or that his latest feature is his 35th film since his debut in 1981's Endless Love.

Regardless of what you think of his personal life and oddball religious beliefs, Cruise has already secured his position as not only one of the biggest global stars of his generation, but also one of the most powerful.

During his incredible career, he has starred in virtually every kind of genre imaginable, including singing in Rock of Ages; in fact possibly the only thing he has yet to do is voice a character in an animated film. No doubt he'll cross that one off of his list once his legs go, which will probably be in another thirty-odd years at the rate he's going.

Jack Reacher is yet another role for him to prove that he's still got what it takes to be a believable action hero; in terms of believability however, the same can't be said about the film itself.

On a beautifully sunny day in downtown Pittsburgh, people are just going about their everyday business. For five of them however, it will be their last. Poised in a car park, a lone sniper sits, eyeing up his victims before pulling the trigger and supposedly shooting indiscriminately.

The police are quick to hunt their man down, and soon have the man responsible in custody. Before slipping into a somewhat convenient coma, he communicates the following sentence get Jack Reacher.

Reacher (Cruise), an ex army cop, is a tough man to track down. He lives the life of a ghost, completely off grid. Luckily for the Pittsburgh police, Reacher just turns up on their door step out of the blue. Thinking that he's there to protest the man in custody's innocence, in fact the exact opposite is true; Reacher is all too aware of the alleged killer, someone who he knows killed indiscriminately during his military career but got away with it due to peculiar circumstances. Needless to say that Reacher isn't his number one fan.

Helen Rodin (Rosamund Pike), acting as the accused's defence lawyer, doesn't think the case is as clear cut as everyone thinks. She decides to hire Reacher to investigate the crime he agrees to do so on the understanding that he'll prove his guilt more than anything. But despite his personal feelings, Reacher soon gets a feeling that there's more to this case than meets the eye.

You can see the appeal the character had for Cruise; he's a loner, with a somewhat mysterious past, who knows how to look after himself and has his own definition of justice. On top of that, there's the fact that the character is from a long-running, best-selling book series written by Brit Lee Child, with this film an adaptation of his One Shot novel, which is somewhat curiously, the ninth instalment in the series.

Where it may differ from any other role that Cruise has taken on is in the quirkiness of the character. His Reacher has an acerbic wit that takes a while to get the gist of. And when he meets up with Pike's character, the film has a feel of a John Grisham novel crossed with Moonlighting, with Cruise channelling Bruce Willis and Pike Cybill Shepherd from the old eighties TV show. It all gets very tongue in cheek, but for the most part works and there's an undeniable on-screen chemistry between the pair.

It's not the only quirky element of the film; despite being busy over the years writing numerous screenplays (including 2008's Valkyrie, 2010's The Tourist and the upcoming titles The Wolverine and Jack the Giant Slayer), this is only the second film that Christopher McQuarrie has directed since his 2000 film The Way of the Gun. Although there's been a 12 year hiatus, he doesn't show much sign of being rusty.

Not only does he handle many of the film's action scenes well, he often uses the camera in a way that hasn't been seen often since seminal films of the seventies, where he allows the camera to shoot from slightly awkward angles, and just let it rest on certain characters at times of tension. In that sense, the film has a retro beauty about it that is certainly pleasing on the eye.

It also has a number of solid performances from many of its cast, including a highly watchable David Oyelowo, Robert Duvall having a ball and a rare acting turn for director Werner Herzog, who possibly takes the main villain role a little too seriously.

The film could be described as having somewhat of a bi-polar personality with its bursts of humour and drama, which may rub some up the wrong way, but at least McQuarrie never makes it dull.

The fact that there are numerous Lee Child books about Reacher out there means this could be the start of another franchise for Cruise. The film may be a little too quirky for his mainstream audience, so that may have a bearing on whether there are more or not. Ultimately though, it will be Cruise's decision, and if he wants to do more no-one's exactly going to turn round to him and say no.

As a standalone feature however, it still manages to stand on its own two feet. Although the story has an obvious flow to it, Cruise is enigmatic from start to finish, and McQuarrie's intelligent direction has a magnetic pull about it that's difficult to ignore.

Yet another project that cements Cruise's position in Hollywood; not for being the most powerful actor in the world but for still being one of the most watchable and entertaining.

4 booms

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