Before I review the film, I feel like I need to address the controversy regarding the casting of Tom Cruise as Jack Reacher. Clearly fans of the novels are loyal and passionate people, and many were up in arms at the prospect of ‘short-arse’ Tom Cruise playing the man-mountain Jack Reacher. Someone even hysterically told me that it was the same as Whoopi Goldberg being cast as Harry Potter. Well, apart from the fact that it was an American action star being cast as an American man in an action film.
But Cruise isn’t tall enough, they cry. And? I read a brilliant point on a forum I frequent where someone quite reasonably asked if there was a major plot-point where Jack had to reach something on a very high shelf. Lee Child likely wrote that Reacher was 6’5” as literary short-hand for being physically menacing. Luckily, in films, we don’t need words to paint a picture; the director can just paint a picture instead. And the picture that Christopher McQuarrie paints with his Tom Cruise-shaped oil and canvas is one of a physically imposing man who doesn’t give a solitary shit whether you think he should be six feet tall.
As for the film, it’s a grizzled action-thriller that could have come straight out of the nineties. And, as such, it’s quite a rare and entertaining thing indeed. The plot concerns an apparently open-and-shut case involving a former military sniper killing five people and refusing to talk to the police other than to call for Jack Reacher. Reacher is an one man A-Team, a soldier of fortune who drifts from town to town using public transport. Hopefully the next film sees him tackling someone playing dubstep through their tinny phone speakers. Basically if you’re in trouble, and no-one else can help you, and you can find him…
Well, you know the score.
Rosamund Pike and Richard Jenkins provide perfectly capable support as the inevitable love interest/defence lawyer and her District Attorney father. Werner Herzog shows up in a rare screen performance as the antagonist, and his voice steals every scene it is in. I would pay good money for an audio book of ghost stories read by Herzog. In fact I’d pay good money to hear Herzog read aloud the Facebook terms and conditions.
Back to Cruise and his apparent inability to play the unstoppable force of Jack Reacher. I haven’t read the original books, so I’m not sure if the main problem I had with the film is the fault of the source material or the adaptation. Jack Reacher is presented as one of the smartest and toughest men on the planet, and he’s also an expert marksmen and incredible driver. At no point in the film is he in anything more than the mildest of peril and, because of this, the film lacks tension and urgency, especially in the final third of a pretty long film. Even James Bond has to escape capture now and again, and he often has to use an inflatable helicopter with a laser-sighted staplegun or some such to facilitate it. Reacher just solves mysteries with the ease of Sherlock Holmes while kicking ass like Jean-Claude Van Damme. It all seems a little too easy. He doesn’t even need a notebook for fuck’s sake.
I know some Lee Child fans will hate me for this, but the characterisation and some of the plotting of Jack Reacher was pretty predictable and clichéd, and it was only the charisma of Cruise, and particularly Herzog, plus the stylish direction of McQuarrie that made it such fun.