Jack Reacher is tough guy, a loner, and according to Lee Child’s original novels, 6′ 5” and built like a WWE wrestler. Enter Tom Cruise, arguably the only actor in Hollywood standing 5’ 7” with the tenacity, skill and screen presence to transcend the physical description and authentically embody such a mammoth character.
Child’s ninth Jack Reacher novel, One Shot is the basis of director Christopher McQuarrie’s film and centres on a seemingly straight forward case involving a sniper randomly killing innocent people. Jack Reacher is asked by the alleged perpetrator to cast an eye over the case, as it transpires the pair served in the Iraq War together, and it quickly becomes clear that all is not as it seems as McQuarrie delivers a cultured and intriguing narrative, as you might expect from the creator of The Usual Suspects.
Cruise plays this role in a no-nonsense, matter of fact way which really allows him to shine as Reacher. He swaggers through the film with the confidence and authority of a much bigger frame and delivers a believable, genuinely entertaining performance, full of character, wit and good old fashion justice. With classic lines like “I mean to beat you to death, and drink your blood from a boot” you can’t help but enjoy watching Reacher kick and punch his way to the truth. Cruise’s portrayal of the elusive army veteran who lives in the shadows and only surfaces to right some wrongs and beat down a few bad guys, conjures up a real old school feeling but it’s firmly seated in the 21st century thanks to the direction and vision of McQuarrie.
The director paints a poignant picture right from the outset as the sniper starts to pick off his victims. This sets a very dark tone for the rest of the movie, pulling no punches when it comes to demonstrating how nasty these bad guys really are. McQuarrie deals with the action sequences with much flair and finesse and there are a number of high octane car chases which will keep the action junkies happy. There are also some superb fight scenes with Reacher demonstrates his superior hand-to-hand combat style, whilst comically predicting the outcome of an imminent five on one battle to the unsuspecting bad guys.
Though the plot is relatively straight forward, the performances of the supporting cast add to a well-constructed film. British actress Rosamund Pike (Wrath of the Titans) puts on her finest American accent and delivers a solid performance as Helen Rodin, the defence attorney/potential love interest working alongside Reacher to prove the sniper’s innocence. Fellow Brit David Oyelowo also puts in good shift as tough, confident detective Emerson who investigated and arrested the sniper.
Perhaps the stroke of genius was casting the veteran director Werner Herzog (Grizzly Man, Rescue Dawn) as the film’s bad guy. Just the sight of his menacing face brought raptures of laughter and applauds from the audience. Maybe not the reaction that you would expect in seeing the main villain on-screen but the sentiment was appropriate, as the audience was just so excited to see the beloved director in such a dramatic, surprising role. Herzog doesn’t disappoint and delivers a chilling performance as Russian criminal overlord, the Zec. My only criticism would be that he was underused, while it was great to see Robert Duvall (Crazy Heart) pop up later on in the film, and he puts in a commendable stint as one of Reacher’s allies.
Jack Reacher is another notch on Tom Cruise’s action hero belt and demonstrates why he is still one the most bankable action men in Hollywood. The combination of Cruise and McQuarrie alongside an excellent supporting cast delivers a sharp, entertaining and thoroughly enjoyable action thriller which will no doubt be the first of many new Reacher adventures.