Jack Reacher is a wonderfully executed crime procedural that has some great set pieces and a fantastic turn by Tom Cruise in the title role.
Based on the book “One Shot” in a series of Jack Reacher novels by Lee Child, Reacher is a retired, top notch Military Police detective who is nothing more than a name in the wind; unless he decides to show his face. When an ex-military sniper, Barr, is accused of murdering five civilians, his only testimony is to write one name, Jack Reacher. Reacher shows up on the scene before the police can even call on him and he is there to make sure Barr doesn’t get off on the charges. The two have a history, but Reacher quickly finds that he is unable to separate himself from the case and he stays on to work for the defense lawyer, Helen Rodin.
Christopher McQuarrie writes and directs the film and he does a fantastic job at making this fairly straightforward procedural endlessly entertaining; especially with most of the mystery around the case revealed in the opening scene. There was a lot of uproar by fans of the books with the hiring of Cruise as Reacher, he is supposed to be a giant beast of a man, but I can assure you that Cruise fills the badass shoes quite easily. Cruise is great as Reacher and gives one of his best performances in a while. His wit is sharp, quick and Cruise owns the character. Brutal, intelligent and the best at what he does any fans of classic fictional detectives will feel right at home with this twist on the detective.
Cruise is just a joy to watch and he makes the dark and brutal elements of the film easier to swallow, but even with a PG-13 rating the film hits hard and never pulls a punch. The main crime of the film is terrifying actually, but it is effective beyond just being relevant in today’s day and age. Thankfully they never glorify the violence and while they might make a joke around some it, it always feels serious and especially dangerous. McQuarrie builds the plot piece by piece on top of each other culminating in and ending that works to great effect; even if they had to contrive the story a bit to get Reacher some help. The film is a bit over two hours, but you will never feel it and be ready to follow Reacher anywhere.
Things stay interesting even when Reacher isn’t on screen as Richard Jenkins, David Oyelowo and, especially, Rosamund Pike all help Cruise carry the film along. The group makes the exposition go down with ease and both Pike and Oyelowo have some great chemistry with Cruise. Pike continues to be excellent work here and she makes another strong case that she should be in more movies. Werner Herzog is delightfully sinister as the film’s antagonist, but it would have been nice for there to be a bit more background for him and his cause; though I totally buy why everyone is terrified of him. Jai Courtney joins Logan Marshall Green in the Tom Hardy look alike club, but he serves as a fine nemesis to Reacher over the second half of the film. Alexia Fast also does everything she needs to in a limited role to make us care just enough and make us believe Reacher would feel the same.
Jack Reacher is a great time at the movies. A simple and familiar procedural has enough twists and turns to keep the film constantly engaging and Cruise has found a great potential franchise character in Reacher. McQuarrie’s script is brutal, sharp and often hilarious with his direction just as compelling. Jack Reacher is one of the best releases of the holidays and is certainly one of the most entertaining films of the year.
Jack Reacher is an A-