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Jack Reacher (2013) - Smart, Clever Scripting Enhances Tom Cruise Mystery

How often does a movie come along that surprises you like none other? Not in the sense of explosions or cool effects rather by the elements it doesn’t have. If you are confused, stick with me. All shall be revealed.

A bright, beautiful sunny day is the last for five strangers. A sniper’s trained eye has just stolen from them their lives. Long after the screams and gunfire fades, police respond to a crime scene that is dripping with evidence including a coin from a meter with a perfect fingerprint. Catching all the right breaks, the print matches James Barr, an elite trained Iraq war veteran. Once an arrest is made, all he gives up to police is one name; Jack Reacher. 

FILM REVIEW | Mission: Impossible, Rogue Nation (2015)

Some people don’t wish to be found. Jack Reacher (Tom Cruise) is one such person. He was has an impeccable military record and a stint with the military police, he is now drifting. Living life in the shadows of everyone else – this was before he saw the news and James name splashed across the stories. Now, he returns to America, presents what he knows about the man and is ready to leave again… until he meets Helen Rodin (Rosamund Pike). The daughter of the DA (Richard Jenkins), Helen takes on the task of defending James and she wants to know everything about her client – including whatever it is Jack knows.  

This film is probably the best surprise I’ve seen in 2013. Prior to renting it, I expected to walk away with something completely different, a result not unlike the “Bourne” series, and instead it was an example of smart timing and pacing along with a cast that rivaled most of its peers. Here was my basic understanding of the movie; heaps of car chases, gunfire and a champion who went on the run after being framed for murders. Here’s what it actually was: savvy and intelligent forcing a hero on the run following the freaky bad guy(s) framing him. When I saw this one was set to release during this month, my excitement meter went up a notch since I am kind of a nut about action flicks that are fun if nothing else. Luckily for the viewer looking for intelligence over brawn, ‘Reacher’ delivers.  

Approximately halfway through this movie, I had to admit that I’d underestimated its capabilities. Its angle of investigating the mystery rather than overwhelming our screen time with strategic stunts and “filling” a two hour timeslot with gun battles or car chases was clever – and the result was very possibly one of the best suspense movies I’ve seen since I don’t know when. Better still, it doesn’t build off fear of protagonists to be interesting and invest the viewer’s more in the scripting, the pull is to find out what Jack’s next move is and whether or not it will met positive answers. 

Novelist Lee Child is the person behind the genius of Jack Reacher and as a g00d-guy-with-a-possible-dark-side, I sure did like him. He was interesting and retains his mysterious status even after he stays behind to help solve the case; we learn things in relation to him… and yet, we don’t learn anything that tells us about him, what drives him to live the way he does.  

Tom Cruise doesn’t rank among my favorite actors, having said that over the years, I have developed a certain fondness for his characters (Knight & Day, Mission: Impossible, Ghost Protocol) and the practiced ease he has at playing good-guy-with-a-dark-past. The real fun is seeing Rosamund Pike (Wives & Daughters) in something again and in a role so vastly differing from that of the proper Lady Harriet. She and Cruise have some memorable moments which (fortunately!) is a relationship that doesn’t fall into the same-old, same-old trap. If a viewer wants to pick apart the film, sure there are flaws and clichés; in the final fifteen minutes, we are sure the bad guy has been pegged before a brief niggling of suspicion crops up only to be proven wrong. Having said that, the movie is largely all about going “old school.” Its opening is brilliant because it teases us and breaks our heart; there aren’t a lot of empty sections of music nor is there much of a score, yet the film never lagged. 

When least we expect it, there are profound moments of truth and poignancy, along with a man who believes in patriotism and bringing to justice those who wronged another human being. Be warned, there is one moment in which Jack takes justice into his own hands that may bother some viewers. Sadly, his response is more true than not and the mentality that there needs to be justice is something to be proud of – and Jack Reacher, makes it easy.  

CONTENT | there is a gun battle in the final moments that results in multiple casualties – including two “close range kills.” [Nothing is terribly graphic.] Prior to that, Jack assaults three bad guys in close quarters after they've pummeled him over the head with a baseball bat. The opening pans multiple bodies lying prone, blood pools around there; a woman’s neck is snapped by a hard slap [she is also suffocated]. During a set-up, Jack calls one girl out; she remarks he couldn't "afford" her. Also referenced are sexual assaults that took place during the war. There’s one use of the F-word and the rare minor profanity like sh*t, a**, etc. The film is rated PG13.
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  1. Really nice review of Jack Reacher! It's a good action flick; I love how old school it is and it doesn't pull action scenes out of a hat. Every combat scene is really well choreographed. :)

    1. Totally agree, Katy - it definitely has an "old school" element and that's actually VERY refreshing. Much as I love those high-octane, action movies, this one was far more focused and it worked very well. This will certainly be one I'll own.

      Thank you for reading!

  2. I'll have to watch this one sometime! Tom Cruise isn't my favorite by any stretch either, but I do enjoy Rosamund Pike!

    1. Yeah, me either, Kellie. For some reason Tom Cruise just isn't the kind of actor I *want* to constantly follow. That being said, I like every movie I've see him in plus this this is actually one of his BEST "suspense" roles. And, Rosamund Pike? She was also a great character - we were watching it and my mother goes, "who is that!?" It's always fun to see British stars on the American cinema. :)

  3. Oh gosh....I LOVED this movie when I saw it. I know, it's hard to say you love a movie such as this. But believe it or not, Tom Cruise managed to NOT ruin it for me.

    One thing though--it takes place in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. I know this because I recognized all of the landmarks (like the bridges and the three rivers and stuff like that) I had also walked where the initial shootings that spark the movie took yeah, deja vu there ;-)

    1. Me, too, Ella! It was just that good; it impressed me in ways I never expected of it - definitely underestimated 'Jack Reacher.' Plus, yeah, Tom Cruise was fine in the role. (Plan on buying this one!)

      Ha! Gosh, thanks for pointing out my geographical error. Heavens, I swear that each time I am unsure of something I make a mental note to check and then... well, I forget. *sigh* Guess that's what I get for doing things in a rush. It's neat when a movie takes place somewhere you are familiar with - it certainly lends to the authenticity of it!

      Glad you dropped by, Ella - as always, you were missed. :)

  4. I might give it a whirl someday, but I'm sort of biased against it just by my workplace. I work with library employees and most of them have read the books and they are positively adamant that Jack Reacher is not Tom Cruise. I wouldn't have an opinion either way since I've never read the books, but I get the fuss that he's not a match for the book Reacher. Still, action flicks are my thing so I might track down a copy this summer! Thanks for the review!

    1. If you like action flicks, you for sure should, Carissa! It was really fun and took some turns I'd never have expected. (In terms of the film, choreography, etc.) Like you, I never read the books so have no opinion on whether or not Tom is "right" for the role - just generally speaking, I am not all that fond of him, but then, everyone has a different take on things like this. :)

      Either way... I SO hope you enjoy it, Carissa - thanks for dropping by! :)

  5. This was a good movie! I was totally surprised by who was involved with the bad guys in the end. Well done suspense movie. :-)

    1. That it was, Gwendolyn! And you know, I excepted something totally different from it. Glad it took us by surprise - that's what really great stories do. :)

  6. I'm not crazy about Tom Cruise either, but I did enjoy "Knight & Day" and "Ghost Protocol" so I'm really interested to see "Jack Reacher" now! It sounds intriguing.

    1. As did I, Lizzie - Knight & Day was crazy fun and 'Ghost Protocol' way better than I gave it credit for. With Jack Reacher, again I underestimated one of Tom Cruise's films. Maybe now I'll have learned my lesson. :)



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