Tom Cruise. No matter the character, no matter the story, no matter the director, he just can’t make a bad movie. Last year’s release, Jack Reacher, available now on Netflix streaming and DVD and Blu-ray, is another home run. But for the lackluster title and so-so marketing effort, Jack Reacher might have been a really big hit last year. Cruise turns in a solid performance again, similar to his high-calibre lead acting in last year’s sci-fi release Oblivion, reviewed here at borg.com. Later this year the 51-year-old screen legend is back again, in another sci-fi release, Edge of Tomorrow, with co-star Emily Blunt.
Jack Reacher, odd name aside, could be one of those heroes you compare to Harry Callahan, Frank Bullitt, or a Daniel Craig-era James Bond. The character is that good, as is Cruise’s fit into the role of a smart and tough drifter who turns to the aid of a comatose defendant and his struggling defense attorney in the case of a shocking, random mass shooting. Cruise’s drifter is also ex-military, the kind of ex-military that can take on a group of thugs by himself, and take part in a big-screen shoot-‘em up. We see Reacher learning and growing as he tries to make all the right moves–and get constantly set back–throughout the movie, not something many films give audiences much of these days. He thinks like a lawyer or detective and does so believably, and Cruise taps into his work in The Firm or A Few Good Men, making Reacher a good follow-on for fans of those films.
As Reacher attempts to find the top gunman at a rifle range, we find Robert Duvall in another great role similar to his work in A Civil Action, this time as a craggy expert with a rifle. Along the way we meet several villains, including one played by A Good Day to Die Hard’s Jai Courtney, but far and away the most intriguing is writer/director/producer Werner Herzog as what could be a Bond villain as “Zec”. Creepy. Vile. Evil. He gives a pawn who screwed-up a choice: death, or chew off his own fingers. Yikes. Rosamund Pike (Surrogates, Pride and Prejudice) excels as the defense attorney in several scenes with the opportunity to convey a wide range of emotions for a single film–and cinematography by (Zooey and Emily’s dad) Caleb Deschanel (The Right Stuff, The Natural, Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter, National Treasure), gives her plenty of well-timed, stare-into-the-camera close-ups.
The suspense is superb. Writer/director Christopher McQuarrie will have you seeing scenes played out in the style of J. Lee Thompson and Sam Leavitt in Cape Fear or Alfred Hitchcock in The Man Who Knew Too Much. Original novelist Lee Child’s twists and turns will have you second guessing every move. What you think will be played out as cliché—a character that by initial appearances could turn out to be a First Blood/Rambo knock-off—instead takes off in a surprising way, making this the kind of suspense film that evokes the excitement of Magnum Force or Bullitt. Reacher is smart, but he makes mistakes. And speaking of Bullitt, Jack Reacher features a car chase filmed like 1970s car chases were filmed, the best way, as well as more than one hand-to-hand fight scene that might have you thinking of Keith David and Roddy Piper in They Live. When Reacher is bested by another, instead of losin’ it he beats one guy with another guy’s head—one of those scenes you just have to see.
Best of all, despite the seriousness of the crime, the risky business of fighting bad cops and city-wide corruption, and the gravity of the drama, Jack Reacher is a ton of fun. The cinematography alone worth a re-watch. If the rumors are true, Tom Cruise has already begun work on a sequel, tentatively titled Jack Reacher: Never Go Back, supposedly in the works since the end of 2013. We can’t wait.