Loner ex-Army investigator Jack Reacher reaches the big-screen in a big way as the latest Tom Cruise vehicle brings the mysterious drifter to life in Christopher McQuarrie’s new film. Author Lee Child’s series of novels about the brilliant and brutal nomad provided the inspiration for this taut and intense thriller that is both compelling and satisfying.
The film opens in Pittsburgh--a normal day, people walking along the river, enjoying the beautiful weather, when shots are fired. Multiple shots--mowing down five innocent people for no apparent reason. The police quickly move in and, in some amazing investigative work, have a suspect in custody within 16 hours. The local DA, famous for never losing a capital case, and the local police question the suspect intensely trying to coerce a confession from the alleged mass murderer. The suspect’s only response --“Get Jack Reacher.”
The suspect is soon in a coma in a local hospital, courtesy of a beating by other prisoners while being transported to jail. A local activist attorney, Helen Rodin, played by British actress Rosamund Pike, takes on the accused killer’s case pro bono to try to keep him off of death row. She also wants to tweak the nose of the obnoxious DA Rodin, portrayed by Richard Jenkins, who just happens to be her father.
Enter Jack Reacher. While no one summons the ex-MP, he shows up on his own, but with the intent to bury the accused--an ex-Army sniper with a history of shooting innocents in Iraq--rather than to save him. The defense attorney shares the evidence with Reacher and he quickly suspects a frame-up. He decides to investigate on his own and the more he investigates, the more intense the film becomes.
The chemistry between Cruise and Pike adds to the drama and the intensity of the film. The two make an interesting team as they work together--as much as one can work “with” Jack Reacher--to try to find out who has set up her client. Also turning in sterling performances are longtime Cruise buddy and cohort Robert Duvall as Cash, the operator of a shooting range where the alleged shooter kept up his sniper skills, and Werner Herzog, the German producer, director, and writer, who steps from behind the camera to portray a perfectly evil Zec, the man behind the murders.
The only problem I had with the film was the casting of Cruise as Reacher. In Child’s novels, Reacher is a mountain of a man--6’5”, 250 pounds -- and intimidating by his presence alone. Cruise, who comes in at 5’7”, 170 pounds and in top physical condition for a man approaching 50, but is hardly the intimidating force one would expect as Jack Reacher. Despite that glitch, Cruise pulls off the role with vigor and depth that quickly helps you look past his lack of size. I have to admit that I have liked Cruise since I first saw him on film in 1981’s Taps, and in Jack Reacher, he continues to impress. Then, when you put him on the screen with Duvall, well, what’s not to like?
The film is a bit long at 130 minutes, but well worth your time over the holidays. - Mike Gallien