Expectation can be a dangerous thing. Especially when it’s fans of books about to see a long held hero brought to life on the silver screen. When it was announced that the Jack Reacher books would be adapted the initial excitement turned into howls of anguish as it became apparent that Tom Cruise’s production company was involved and the title role would be filled by Tom himself. The issue for most fans of the book was that Reacher is described as six-foot five and built like a brick outhouse. Tom Cruise on the other hand is about five and a half feet tall and doesn’t have the same imposing physical presence. The issue was put to bed for most of the fans when the book’s author, Lee Child, gave his opinion. He said that with any other (taller) actor you would get one hundred percent of height and ninety percent of the character but with Tom Cruise you get ninety percent of the height but one hundred percent of the character. While being generous with the estimation of Cruise’s dimensions Mr Child hits the nail on the head. The film is an interpretation and the core of that is a totally committed characterisation.
The first fifteen minutes of the film are a masterclass in cinema story telling. An inconspicuous white van travels in Downtown Pittsburgh It enters a parking garage and goes up to a quiet level. A man exits the van, deposits a coin in the parking meter and starts to set up a sniper rifle. Over the next minute or so the sniper scopes out various targets at the other side of the river. Five victims are chosen and dispatched with clinical ease. Only one bullet misses and is lodged in a drinks dispenser at a fast food stall. The shooter disappears from the scene like the professional he so clearly is.
The police are soon on the scene led by Police Inspector Emerson (David Oyelowo). There are various pieces of evidence. A used bullet cartridge, the bullet itself from the miss and from the coin in the meter a partial fingerprint. All the clues lead to a prime suspect in the form of a former Army sniper, Barr (Joseph Sikora) living in the city. Located and arrested with apparent ease, Barr refuses to answer any questions. He takes a note pad and scrawls ‘GET ME JACK REACHER’. As the District attorney (Richard Jenkins) is getting a background report on Reacher and how he is a virtual ghost who should walk in but the man himself. Having seen the media coverage of the crime, Reacher has turned up to prove Barr guilty. He is persuaded by Barr’s Lawyer (Rosamund Pike) to investigate the scene. Reacher reluctantly agrees.
What you have in those first scenes is everything you need in terms of information to fully understand and enjoy the story. There is no more need for exposition. We get the crime set up. This is done with great skill. It is tense and a little unnerving watching the killer select his targets and work out the order of the shots. With no dialogue or overly dramatic music, all from the point of view of the gunman, it sets the tone for the dramatic elements of the rest of the film. The remainder of the opening introduces us to most of the film’s protagonists and antagonists. We get some background on Reacher, are introduced to the law enforcement officials and get to see the dynamic between them all. A seed of doubt is sown in the initial investigation and arrest of the suspect. It all seems too easy and convenient.
Yes, you still have to watch the film to get the rest of the story but in effect everything you need to know is contained in those opening several minutes. It is refreshing that there is no need for mid film exposition to bring the audience up to speed. Credit for this has to go to the Writer / Director Christopher McQuarrie. From writing the screen play to ”The Usual Suspects’ and ‘Valkyrie’ to his directorial debut on the criminally underrated thriller ‘The Way of the Gun’ Mr McQuarrie is fast becoming a high profile player in Hollywood.
The primary focus is, of course, on Tom Cruise. He is, as always, very good. He does indeed give one hundred per cent to the role. He tackles the part with verve and is believable as the ghost like figure of Jack Reacher. It was good to see him doing his own driving work during the car chase sequences. It adds a great deal to the movie when you get close-ups and mid shots of the action where the drivers face is clearly visible. The driving sequences are superb. They are proper seventies style chase sequences with an assortment of muscle cars. Very reminiscent of The French connection.
As with any good film the supporting cast make the experience more enjoyable. In this case a couple of them threaten to steal the show. Rosamund Pike as the attorney is very good in what amounts to a minor side kick role. Her screen time is limited but well used as a foil to the silent and sure Reacher. Richard Jenkins is good as ever. I don’t think I have seen a bad performance from the actor and it is no different here.
The scene stealers come from the veterans. Robert Duvall has an acting CV as long as a very long thing indeed and has provided some memorable performances over the years. His short turn as Cash, former army gunnery sergeant and present gun range owner, is just great. He is at turns humorous world weary and totally serious. He is still a leading man in my opinion and has the ability and the stature to carry a film on his own. The other notable performance comes from the renowned veteran director Werner Herzog as the The Zec, the mastermind behind the crime gang at the centre of the proceedings. Having a naturally unsettling manner and unique voice, he has to do little to convey pure evil. Your eyes are drawn to him whenever he is on screen. An excellent piece of casting.
The film has a bit of a Seventies feel to it in the the themes, the action sequences and the characterisations It is good to see that some people still have the courage to make this kind of film in the current financial climate which is not particularly fashionable at the moment.
Overall a well made, well cast action adventure film. Highly recommended.