Director: Christopher McQuarrie
Reviewed: 25 May 2013
"Jack Reacher" had me at the first appearance and winding monologue from German director Werner Herzog. His voice is always memorable and distinct, and his character's brutal story of survival provides an air of dark menace. The world is full of dark, menacing bad guys. But this is Tom Cruise's show, clearly, and he owns the film as Jack Reacher, an off-the-grid, former military investigator with experience in the Balkans and the Persian Gulf who travels to Pittsburgh to investigate a horrific sniper shooting of five people on a bright waterfront. Reacher works with the defense attorney Helen Rodin (Rosamund Pike) to see if the ex-military man picked up by the police for the crime actually did it. Along the way, Reacher is followed and attacked, proving himself surprisingly agile and resourceful. Reacher is a perfect role for Tom Cruise who oozes confidence and control. Part of the fun of the performance is watching Cruise calibrate his responses to project that confidence as well as display a dazzling array of fighting moves to show Reacher's dominance in all scenes. He is also smaller than most of his foes, adding an element of underdog to the proceedings. However, Tom Cruise could never really be an underdog.
McQuarrie, the Oscar-winning writer of "The Usual Suspects," makes some fun choices here. The film opens with a horrifically violent scene and moves the story forward to the eight-minute mark before the first line of dialogue is spoken. He gives Cruise some wonderful lines as the supremely confident hero. The chase scenes stick out because of the total lack of soundtrack, enabling the audience to hear the shifting of gears, the roaring engines of the racing cars, the satisfying crunch of metal on metal. A final fight scene shows two men matching up physically by throwing away their guns and choosing hand to hand combat instead.
One criticism of the film would be that I did not understand the motivations of major characters. I wonder since Jack Reacher is a character in a major series of novels if more information is forthcoming in additional stories. The final third of the film seems to change Reacher's controlling confidence into a devil-may-care improvisation which does not work as well or fit with the previously established character. Sadly, Rosamund Pike is given little to do, as is the great Richard Jenkins, as her District Attorney father. Pittsburgh looks glorious with its bridges and stadiums surrounded by the rivers as well as a fun joke about people waiting for a bus covering for Reacher. When compared to Cruise's latest film "Oblivion," "Jack Reacher" is engaging and fun in its low-tech way. And, it's got Werner Herzog.