Title: Jack Reacher (2013)
Director: Christopher McQuarrie
Cast: Tom Cruise, Rosamund Pike, Werner Herzog, Robert Duvall, Richard Jenkins
Jack Reacher is Tom Cruise starting up yet another franchise, this time aiming to make a film that’s a bit more realistic in nature, less fantastic then say the Mission Impossible films, which are films that give us the action, but not the believability factor. The Mission Impossible films present us with situations that are way too incredible, way too out there and way too CGI even for a film that’s called Mission Impossible. I’m not saying I don’t enjoy that type of film, but I saw Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol (2011) and after seeing it couldn’t bring myself to write a review for it because it was empty calories, a film with nothing much to say. This is the reason why every once in a while it’s good to get one of these action films that aims for realism and plausibility. Jack Reacher aims to capture the level of credibility see in films like Skyfall (2012) or The Bourne Identity films; not a bad thing to go for when we consider how incredibly cartoonish action films have become in the recent years. I miss those films where the action used to happen right in front of the camera. I’m talking about films like William Friedkin’s The French Connection (1971), John Frankenheimer’s Ronin (1998) or Don Siegel’s Dirty Harry (1971), you know, films that went through the trouble of actually making things happen on camera as opposed to the inside of a computer. Jack Reacher hearkens back to those days of filmmaking, and I liked that about it.
Jack Reacher is the ultimate bad ass ex-military, the kind of guy who lives off the grid, no one knows where he is, where he’s going or where he’s been. He’s a ghost. But he’s a do gooder and if you do something wrong, as the tag line for the film says “you’re gonna get it”. In this case, there’s a sniper terrifying the city. He’s killing people randomly off the streets, the government seems to think that he is doing this to inflict terror on society; others think he has a more sinister plan. Jack Reacher decides to use his military skills and detective skills in conjunction with the district attorneys daughter to get to the bottom of things.
This attempt at realism is something that is dominating films nowadays. Films and franchises that were once known for being ultra fantastic and unbelievable, cartoony even, are now changing their ways and directing themselves towards more realistic situations and premises. A good example of this are Nolan’s Batman films, when compared to Burton’s or Schumacher’s take on the character, those films seem like child’s play when compared to Nolan’s three films. Daniel Craig’s run on James Bond is another good example. Once Bond was a comic book character with lazers coming out of his watch, now he doesn’t rely so much on gadgets like these, now he’s all depressed and out of shape, now he’s got real issues to deal with, he’s not so indestructible. These are just some examples of films that have changed their ways because audiences nowadays have requested it. In my opinion, we have the Bourne movies to thank for that shift. As soon as the Bourne films became huge hits, suddenly every other movie was copying their ultra realistic style, so in this sense, we can see the importance of the Bourne franchise, it was a trend setter, from these films onward, action films have never been the same. And in my opinion, it’s the series of films that Jack Reacher borrows a lot of its style and tone from, heck, even the posters are similar in style.
But to be honest, Jack Reacher isn’t really an action film the way that the trailers might lead you to believe. There’s not much in the way of action perse, this is more of a detective/crime film, a thriller, a whodunnit. There’s one awesome car chase sequence in the film, which I have to say was quite good, but other than that, this film is more about Reacher snooping around, asking questions, punching some faces until he finds the answers he wants. The real strength in this film is the story, which plays with current themes of terrorism. Remember that case back in 2002? The one with the sniper that killed ten people in Washington? His name was John Allen Muhammad and he, along with his 17 year old partner kept a nation in terror for various days, I remember the people of Washington were so terrified that they didn’t even want to walk the streets. This crazy sniper was caught and sentenced to death; he was executed and his partner in crime was given life imprisonment. Jack Reacher plays with a similar premise of a sniper shooting people on the streets in an apparently random manner. The Jack Reacher character comes from a series of books written by author Lee Childs, who has written 17 Jack Reacher novels so far. The particular one that the film is based on is called ‘One Shot’. Considering how the whole John Allen Muhammad sniper deal happened in 2002, and the novel was released in 2005, I think it’s safe to say that Lee Child’s was partially inspired by these real life events.
Director Christopher McQuarrie has only one other directing credit to his name, The Way of the Gun (2000), a film that slipped through cinemas practically unseen. I remember renting it and watching it, but not being impressed by it much. Haven’t seen it in such a long while that I think it requires a re-watch, maybe my older, Film Connoisseur eyes will find some redeeming qualities in it. McQuarrie did a good job of directing Jack Reacher, my favorite scene is the car chase, there’s some good camera work there and I hear Tom Cruise did all actual stunt driving himself. One look at McQuarries resume and you can see that he’s more of a writer than a director. He has a couple of really good ones in there, starting with the Academy Award winning screenplay for The Usual Suspects (1995). He is currently working on Mission Impossible 5, which he is also trying to direct. I’m guessing that gig will depend a lot on Jack Reacher’s success, and if box office numbers are any indication, Jack Reacher is gonna make it. It’s not the greatest film in the world and it doesn't exactly succeed at being 'serious' because some of the dialog comes off as cheesy at times, in fact, there's this one scene where Cruise is talking over the phone to the bad guys and telling them how he is going to make them pay that felt like Cruise was trying to be Liam Neeson in Taken (2008). But the film does have a solid cast that makes the film more than it could have been. Hell, we even get famed German director Werner Herzog playing a gangster! We get the always awesome Robert Duvall as an ex-sniper that’s still has a kill or two in him. Final words? It’s a film that’s trying to bring things a bit more down to earth, it’s not trying to get too fantastical, this is a film with a firm grasp on reality and hey, that’s a breath of fresh air in this CGI infested world.