(2012, US, d. Christopher McQuarrie)
Let me preface this by saying that I’m probably the biggest Tom Cruise fan I know. In my opinion, not only does he elevate all the material he’s in, including the actors around him, but he commits to the role like very few actors today. In an age where irony is cool, Cruise stands out by believing every single word that comes out of his characters’ mouths.
Meet Jack Reacher. Marketing campaigns tell us he is the law. When the justice system won’t prevail, Reacher can be sure to carry out his own sentences. That’s not really the case in this film. In Jack Reacher (originally titled One Shot – a far better title – after the book of the same name), Reacher is summoned by forces beyond his control. And it’s really only his curiosity that keeps him going.
Don’t worry, though. There are plenty of Hollywood one-liners and Cruise moments to keep you satisfied.
Not having read the book, I didn’t go in with any preconceived notions about how the title character should look. Fans of the book were outraged when it was announced Cruise had been tapped to play the lead, given the character in the novel was a huge man and Tom Cruise is a little smaller. The only preconcieved notion I went in with was that the film wasn’t receiving fond reviews from critics, but was receiving an outpouring of love from audiences (The film is currently sitting on an “A-” rating at CinemaScore). After having seen the film, I’m going to stand with the audiences.
Here’s the thing: Jack Reacher has its gaping problems. The story is underdeveloped, a few logic questions and the whole film starts to fall apart, and McQuarrie is never able to establish a consistent tone throughout. The characters feel like sketches from every action film in the past (seriously Werner Herzog?) and the set pieces are clearly recycled from better films.
Yet for some reason, it was enjoyable. Maybe it was a breath of fresh air from the awards contenders. Maybe it was just Tom Cruise being Tom Cruise.
Jack Reacher isn’t an action movie. It’s a mystery. And despite the sometimes ridiculous lines Cruise is forced to speak, it works. And though the film never gets any better than its first 12 minutes – which, if I may, are quite the doozy – I was actively engaged in figuring out what was going on.
Take this all with a grain of salt. At the end of the day, this is another run-of-the-mill action film. And considering the last few Cruise films, this does feel like a backwards step towards conventional. But again, I’m a huge Cruise fan. And if you’re looking for a time-killer this holiday season, this may be the one.