When five pedestrians are shot by a lone sniper, the evidence points to James Barr (Joseph Sikora) who is quickly arrested, but before signing a confession, he demands that DA Alex Rodin (Richard Jenkins) 'get Jack Reacher'. Although no-one knows how to do that, Reacher (Tom Cruise) turns up anyway. He's seen the news and he history with Barr from the Afghan warzone. He surprises Barr's lawyer Helen Rodin (Rosamund Pike) the DA's daughter, with his unique technique and forensic detective work. And the surprises continue as the plot thickens and Helen's father (Richard Jenkins) comes under suspicion of being complicit in a conspiracy.
Review by Louise Keller:
What I like about Jack Reacher is that it is different from the run of the mill action thriller in that it constantly surprises with elements that keep us on edge. Like a jigsaw, the story pieces are laid out, complete with red herrings and twists, car chases and action sequences, before they all jostle to find their place. Humour plays a big part too, revealed through dry wit dialogue, nicely delivered by Tom Cruise, whose tailored talents allow him to play the action hero as well as the thinking man whose words count.
Adapted from Lee Child's book One Shot, Christopher McQuarrie's smart screenplay develops the characters and their relationships in a way that's meaningful. Having won the Oscar in 1995 for his screenplay of The Usual Suspects, McQuarrie's writing skills are well known (recent titles include Valkyrie, 2008 and The Tourist, 2010), but his only earlier foray into directing, was The Way of the Gun, 2002, a complicated crime thriller starring Ryan Phillippe and Benicio Del Toro that failed to fire, despite its title. This one is different.
Tom Cruise knows how to pick his projects and Jack Reacher is a beauty. Here, all the elements come together with a perfectly cast Cruise as the film's protagonist and anti-hero, who contrary to his name, is out of reach and stays in the shadows of the blind spot. He is nicely countered by lovely Rosamund Pike (beauty and brains personified) as his defence attorney Helen Rodin, who brings tangible warmth to the role. She does what the law dictates; he does what is right. So they come to things from different directions, but connect and understand each other. (There's a nice vibe between them.)
In a tantalising opening sequence in which the key plot point occurs and in which there is no dialogue, we watch what happens through the long-range scope of a rifle, lingering on five different targets before the trigger is pulled. Are they random killings - or something else? We are given plenty of clues, but clues are meaningless without interpretation and Reacher's brilliant investigative mind guides us on our journey.
There's a constant feeling of motion about the film as Reacher follows the clues, takes decisive action and comes up with some great lines. Words are often as piercing as bullets, like in the bar scene when Reacher dishes out the ultimate put down (but very nicely) to the slutty Sandy (nicely played by Alexia Fast) before fists do the talking outside. There are some good observations too, like the scene in which Reacher makes Helen look at her life through fresh eyes, to understand that what might be considered 'freedom' is in fact nothing of the sort, with debt, anxiety, betrayal and the like, hovering. Plus there is plenty of excitement in extended car chase in the zooped up red and black Monaro, with Cruise behind the wheel, speeding, screeching, revving and crashing.
With a dynamic that pits Helen against her DA father (Richard Jenkins, always good value), personal stakes are elevated. Robert Duvall is terrific as Cash, the shooting range owner with ailing eyesight, who delivers some very funny moments in unexpected circumstances. The scene in which Werner Herzog as The Zec describes the circumstances in which he lost most of his missing fingers is one of the most chilling.
It's a satisfying ride with Cruise delivering an enticing character that I, for one, would like to meet again.
Review by Andrew L. Urban:
In real estate it's location, location, location; in mainstream moviemaking the golden rules are story, story, story - and Jack Reacher is a great example of how to get it right. In genre terms it's a police procedural, but director Christopher McQuarrie (of The Usual Suspects fame) shows how to make even a creaky genre turn into a powerful action thriller.
Adapting it from Lee Child's novel, McQuarrie puts a cinematic storytelling spin on the narrative, engaging and intriguing us from the first frame to the last. Points of view, framing and editing all contribute to a thrilling experience - and he has the right cast to do the characters justice (silly pun intended).
The set up is sleight of hand but edgy and tense as a shooter prepares to kill - apparently at random - people in broad daylight across the river from their vantage point in a multi storey car park. There is meticulous detail - but maybe we don't see everything?
Tom Cruise is at his best in these roles, a version of Ethan Hunt from Mission Impossible (No 5 of which, by the way McQuarrie is to direct some time beyond 2012). Cruise has screen authority, he is credible as a tough ex-army special ops operative with zero public profile. Yet he also injects a sense of decency beneath the killer skin.
Rosamund Pike is a great casting choice, an unexpected one and the better for it. She brings intelligence and a kind of warm steel to the role of Helen, and makes her credible and sympathetic. Richard Jenkins is solid as her DA dad, while David Oyelowo makes the most of a difficult support role as Emerson, assistant DA. Alexia Fast is wonderful as Sandy, a young girl caught up something way above her lipgloss grade and Werner Herzog makes a menacing The Zec, an almost entirely fingerless man with a hole where his compassion used to be. Notable in a biggish cameo is Robert Duvall as an old pro shooter and Jai Courtney is effectively thuggish as a ... thug.
The film flows with striking efficiency at a sustained tension level, its tone pitch perfect throughout. There are a couple of questions left unclear around the motives behind the drama and the characters involved, but not enough to interfere with our concentration.
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CHRISTOPHER MCQUARRIE INTERVIEW
JACK REACHER (M)
CAST: Tom Cruise, Rosamund Pike, Richard Jenkins, Jai Courtney, Robert Duvall, Werner Herzog, Michael Raymond-James, James Martin Kelly
PRODUCER: Tom Cruise, David Ellison, Dana Goldberg, Don Granger, Gary Levinsohn, Kevin J. Messick, Paula Wagner
DIRECTOR: Christopher McQuarrie
SCRIPT: Christopher McQuarrie (novel by Lee Child)
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Caleb Deschanel
EDITOR: Stephen M. Rickert Jr, Kevin Stitt
MUSIC: Joe Kraemer
PRODUCTION DESIGN: Jim Bissell
RUNNING TIME: 130 minutes
AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Paramount
AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: January 3. 2013