Movie Review: Jack Reacher
Rating: PG-13 (violence, some drug material, violence)
Length: 130 minutes
Release Date: December 21, 2012
Directed by: Christopher McQuarrie
Stars: 4 out of 5
Most of the chilling opening moments of "Jack Reacher" are seen through the scope of a gun being held by a madman who is intent on murdering innocent people in a park. The scope is slowly aimed at several potential victims in a sequence that is completely nerve wracking as the audience waits to see who the gunman is going to shoot. After what seems like an eternity, he takes his first shot, killing the first of five people. This unnerving scene sets the stage for a film that starts out with high intensity and has enough energy to sustain that intensity until the very end.
A former military sniper named James Barr (Joseph Sikora) is quickly arrested by police officer Emerson (David Oyelowo), who works with District Attorney Rodin (Richard Jenkins) on a case that looks like an easy conviction. Barr asks for Jack Reacher (Tom Cruise), a former military cohort who he knows has the skills to prove his innocence. The problem is that Reacher is actually unreachable, because nobody knows where he is or how to get in contact with him. Imagine everyone's surprise when he shows up out of nowhere, having seen Barr's face on television. The first of several twists in the movie comes when Reacher admits that he thinks Barr is crazy and guilty of the crime. He hasn't come to town to prove his innocence, but rather to prove beyond a shadow of a doubt that Barr is guilty.
Reacher reluctantly teams up with Barr's attorney Helen (Rosamund Pike) to figure out what happened, mostly because she is willing to show him all the evidence in the case. As they go through files and Reacher surveys the landscape for clues, they begin to suspect that perhaps Barr is innocent after all. In fact, if all the clues they are piecing together are correct, the shootings were not random and are part of a far larger conspiracy that may include Rodin. Unfortunately for Helen, Rodin is her father, which further complicates things. Meanwhile, an increasing amount of hired hands are trying to murder Reacher as he gets closer to solving the case. There are several fight scenes, a really enjoyable car chase, and numerous plot twists along the way.
When news leaked that Cruise was cast in the role of Reacher, fans of the book series by Lee Child protested. In the books, the character is a towering figure who is nearly a full foot taller than Cruise. Fortunately, Cruise is a bona fide action star who knows how to make himself look much more imposing than his height would usually allow. When he gets into a bar fight against five young thugs, he has no problem taking them out, and the audience has no trouble believing that he is capable of such a feat. Fans of the Reacher novels have nothing to fear because Cruise not only perfectly interprets the character, he completely embodies him as well. Should this film turn into a franchise, it is definitely in good hands with Cruise in the lead.
Pike also turns in a fine performance as an attorney who feels morally obliged to defend her client, even though she has serious doubts about his pleas of innocence. She seems somewhat tortured by the case and has one of the most emotional scenes in the film as she recounts the events of the day in question, naming the gunman's victims. She also shows plenty of pluck when standing up to Reacher, who can occasionally be dismissive of those around him. The screenplay does try to play her up as a possible romantic interest for Reacher, but the character is not overwhelmed by his charm and never loses sight of her goals. This is a refreshing take on the usual female role in a male-dominated action film like this one.
"Jack Reacher" is a classic tale of finding more than you bargained for, with a whole lot of action and thrills thrown in. Director Christopher McQuarrie, who also wrote the screenplay, knows how to frame a good fight scene and keeps the story moving forward. Even though the film is over two hours long, viewers will never once think to look at their watches because there is always something interesting or exciting going on. In fact, even with the longer running time, the movie goes by quickly, leaving the audience wanting more. With seventeen novels in the series already published, chances are good that they will indeed see more of Jack Reacher in their futures.