Returning from four weeks of vacation spent overseas in Southeast Asia, on a visit home to Laos, I was jonesing for a catch-up weekend on all the first movies I had missed while I was MIA. The obvious selection for my first reinsertion into the U.S. pop-culture machine should have been the new James Bond flick, Skyfall. However, the new movie Jack reacher just seemed too compelling. I was pleasantly surprised by my last minute pivot. (Future posts will eventually cover the Southeast Asia adventure — I promise).
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Check your movie critic hat at the door upon entering the theater and you'll be treated to a solid and entertaining two hours and 11 minutes. If you're familiar with the Lee Child thrillers, on which the Jack Reacher movie has been fashioned, you'll spend a little time getting over the fact that Tom Cruise is not the Jack Reacher from the novels. Cruise does an outstanding job of portraying Jack Reacher. By the end of the first act, any reservations you may have had regarding the fact that he's not six foot five, brawny or blond – is replaced by the fact that Cruise truly inhabits the character of Jack Reacher. Unbending, stoic and morally unconfused, Cruise's version of Jack Reacher is without scruples when it comes to seeing that justice is served (versus what is right or wrong based on proof). Audiences will gravitate to him because he sees the world in black and white with few if any shades of gray.
He's a modern day Dirty Harry without the magnum, the Terminator without the mechanical directive, the Punisher without the comic book affectations.
Critics will complain that the plot, as it unfolds, makes it obvious to cinephiles exactly what is going on — and if you're an attentive movie watcher you'll realize that part is true. The movie has less to do with keeping the audience in the dark and more to do with keeping them guessing how the Jack Reacher character will resolve the problem(s) at hand.
Here's where all the joy in Jack Reacher comes to a head — women will swoon (like the women in the movie) for Reacher and men will gravitate towards his level of control. On this latter point, it's a level of control that allows Reacher to drop off the grid, untethering himself from the indignity of modern life, the binds of mortgage payments and the demands of a wired life. A quote from the actual book explains how he got to be this way, "I was in the machine. My whole life. Then the machine coughed and spat me out. So I thought, OK, if I'm out, I'm out. All the way out. I was a little angry and it was probably an immature reaction. But I got used to it.”
In essence, Jack Reacher is his own man, living life on his own terms.
Armed with a military background that gives him the chops to back up his understated bravado Jack Reacher, as played by Cruise, is the antithesis of the Arnold Schwarzenegger era action hero. Jack Reacher's first line of defense is intellect, which prevents him from responding to every obstacle with a catchphrase and a hail of bullets fired from an automatic weapon.
Everyone involved with this movie seemingly brought their "A" game, with top billed cast turning in solid performances. Director Christopher McQuarrie ( Usual Suspects) also brings his formidable talents to the project and it shows - from sound design, music and cinematography the all the work is impeccable.
I'm sure studio execs are holding their breath, waiting on weekly box office totals, to see if this will be a breakout hit. Waiting to see if this movie will provide them with a franchise with a wealth of source material. At last count, Lee Childs has had at least 16 Jack Reacher books published. And for pure fun the Reacher novels are easily the best thriller series going. Let us hope this movie, based on the novel "One Shot", is the first of many more to come.