Reviewed by Jim Reed
No joke, Jack Reacher was pretty sweet. Yes, it’s a typical action thriller in which there are really no surprises, but boy is it a lot of fun. The movie starts with a series of seemingly random murders, which bring the now nomadic ex-military investigator Reacher (Tom Cruise) out of retirement/hiding/roaming. Cruise gives Reacher the reserved gusto of a western hero, and the script is written as such— he mysteriously arrives in town, takes care of business, then inconspicuously goes his own way. It’s a western set in Pittsburgh!
Cruise is the same Tom Cruise we see in most all of his movies, but that’s why we keep going back to the theater, isn’t it? He’s not exactly the Jack Reacher you’ll find in One Shot, the Lee Child book the film is based on, but this doesn’t strike me as the type of screenplay that would, a) attract an actor skilled enough to pull off both the character and the behemoth size the book calls for, and yet, b) also allow an actor to really devour a great character. And so we get star power in Cruise, which is fine with me. The other performers are also in the movie…that’s what I’ll say about that. Except, no, I’ll also say that Werner Herzog (known much more for his directing prowess than his acting, and now we know why) is awful as the head baddy, which is fine, I guess, because he doesn’t have much screen time.
What I really like about this movie is the energy and pace writer/director Christopher McQuarrie gives to many sequences in the film. The film opened pretty strong, and surprisingly remains quite entertaining through the middle, usually the portion of an action movie (or really any movie) that lulls. Much of this, I think, has to do with the framing of the shots. McQuarrie and his cinematographer, Caleb Deschanel, do a terrific job of creating just the right amount of space in the frame, giving the audience exactly the amount they need to see without getting claustrophobic or too impersonal. And editor Kevin Stitt does a solid job of settling on shots for for the appropriate length of time, so that, for instance, a car chase in the streets of downtown Pittsburgh remains exciting without making us nauseous.
The explicit and ideological message of the film struggles with the line between what makes a person free, or a prisoner. Reacher, so he claims, is free, wandering the earth, keeping under the radar. The mass of men and women whose freedom he fought for, on the other hand, are prisoners of debt, anxiety, greed, etc…. I get the point, but the filmmakers seem not to care too much about the point. It is too explicit and not strongly enough reinforced throughout the narrative in the smaller moments. The film also only really asks the questions without going so far as to provide a way out of being a prisoner. Unless, of course, we all become like Jack Reacher, nomads attached to nothing. But there are also very few of us who are ex-military detectives with supreme fighting skills, so...
Movies, more often than not, are made for the big screen, which makes sense because the resolution is crisp, the sound is huge, and, well, many other more complex and psychological reasons, but that does not mean every movie needs to be seen on the big screen. You can probably wait to rent this one, but I definitely recommend it as an entertaining actioner. It’s not much more than that, and I’m not sure it tries too hard in that department, but it is worth a watch. And I would be fine with seeing more Jack Reachermovies in the future. Why not!
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