Movie Review: “Jack Reacher”

From what I understand, Tom Cruise is about as far from author Lee Child’s literary description of the Jack Reacher character as possible. No matter; Tom Cruise, now 50, easily embodies the imposing nature of the character and simultaneously powers his way through yet another physically demanding role.

“Jack Reacher” is a superb thriller that blends hard-hitting action with a smart, twisty procedural. Written and directed by Christopher McQuarrie, this is a must-see motion picture that I hope will gain a large audience because if any character deserves a franchise, this is the guy.

“Jack Reacher” is based on “One Shot,” the ninth volume of Lee Child’s series of novels and involves the titular character being summoned by James Barr (Joseph Sikora), a trained military sniper accused of shooting five random people in a public park. The unforgettable opening scene shows the real killer make the shots, each one shown through the lens of his scope. The catch is that the sniper has fired six shots and it is the one bullet that did not kill anyone that becomes a key to solving the case. Reacher has a past with Barr and believes he must undoubtedly be guilty. Barr’s defense attorney, Helen Rodin (Rosamund Pike) is just trying to keep Barr off death row, but her father (Richard Jenkins) is the district attorney, which is precisely as complicated as it sounds.

Helen brings on Jack Reacher as the lead investigator for the case, much to the dismay of police detective Emerson (David Oyelowo), who figures this is an open-and-shut case due to the amount of evidence left at the scene. After a chance encounter at a local bar, Reacher starts to believe that maybe things aren’t what they seem and uses his brain and fists to follow a trail to more answers. Tom Cruise is in such excellent shape and fights so fiercely that we never question the plausibility of him besting five guys who are mostly bigger than him. There is also a truly sensational car chase midway through that is a refreshing change of pace from most generic movie chases. As Reacher chases the bad guys, there are also people chasing him, and this provides real tension and a sense of consequence to the scene.

The rest of the details of the plot are so engaging that I cannot possibly spoil them for you here, but I must mention the superb performance of famed director Werner Herzog as the film’s mysterious villain. He lurks in the shadows for a great deal of the picture, but when he does speak, the dialogue is sinister and the characters he addresses listen intently because their lives may depend on it. Showing up late in the proceedings is Robert Duvall as a spry old gun shop owner who is able to provide clues to assist Reacher in his investigation, as well as the kind of aid that only Robert Duvall can provide.

“Jack Reacher” is the kind of movie that I wanted to watch again as soon as it was over. It’s such a well-blended experience and doesn’t miss a beat, although some may feel disturbed by the opening sniper sequence given that we see plenty of that kind of thing happen in real life these days. People capable of such atrocities should absolutely be brought to justice. I’ll tell you right now that if Jack Reacher really existed, he’d be more than qualified to serve it.

Written and directed by Christopher McQuarrie; starring Tom Cruise, Rosamund Pike, Werner Herzog and Robert Duvall; rated PG-13; 130 minutes; Four stars out of four.