Monday, 14 January 2013
Directed by Christopher McQuarrie
Playing at cinemas now.
Well this was a lot better than I was expecting.
I’m not the biggest Tom Cruise fan although, to be fair, I did think he was pretty great in Minority Report. I’m not indifferent to him for any particular reason (although I think scientology is probably a bad thing to be involved with and that may tint things a little for me) but because he just doesn’t usually make the kind of films that are a blip on my radar. Consequently, I haven’t seen that much of his work although, I will add to that to say that, whenever I have seen him on film, he usually comes across as a more than credible, perhaps even great, actor. So I have no doubt he’s eminently watchable in whatever movie I would choose to see him in.
Jack Reacher is, again, a movie which probably would have not made it onto my radar except, I always take my folks to the cinema on my birthday and, frankly, there was nothing else of even the remotest interest being shown at my local on the day of said occasion, which we hadn’t already seen. Having said that, I’m very glad I took a chance on this movie... and here’s why.
Jack Reacher is not the high octane, modern action thriller you would expect from all the hype and advertising. It’s a little better than that, for the most part, although there are some action scenes for the sake of action scenes which do seem plugged in to just hit a peak with the audience at various points... but even those are tastefully done to the point where the action never really becomes dull or boring.
What you have here, instead, is a more old school approach to a film that slots into the term “action thriller” with a much more “what it says on the tin” attitude than you would normally hope for. It takes it’s time to build up character and plot points, for a start. One character, who is just a lead into an action scene and then becomes a link to the next puzzle piece has far more screen time than you would expect her to, for example, and turns up a few more times than is necessary compared to the way most modern films would short cut past those scenes and just have her as a quick, verbal link to move things on.
Another thing I will say about this film, and you may think I’m a looney making this comparison, is that Jack Reacher felt to me, at times, very Hitchockian in its execution. There is some interesting stuff happening and there are some camera angles, for instance, like a birds eye view of a character walking into an establishing shot cut in amongst the rest of the footage, which is exactly what Hitch would have done. In some ways, this movie feels like somebody asked Hitchcock to make a slick, fast paced, 2012 high testosterone action movie... and Hitch failed and instead delivered something way more interesting.
The picture opens with a, perhaps clichéd at first, sniper sequence.... you know the old chestnut where a killer sets up his kit, moves in position and you start tracking what the killer is tracking through this gun site. Well this is a pretty good set up in this one, as it happens, because you start seeing potential targets over a leisurely amount of time, and you start trying to put their stories together in your head as the site pauses on them, moves on, moves back to them etc, before finishing with them and moving on to the next person. It’s a little bit like Rear Window where James Stewart is staring out of the window with his binoculars at the apartment building opposite and you try to figure out which characters are going to be important to the story. Once you figure out who you think the target is, though, the rug is pulled from you and, without spoiling the sequence for you, the rug is pulled in an unexpected manner and, although the reason for what happens is blatantly apparent to the audience right from the offset, an hour or more before the main protagonists seem to know what’s going on, it’s a little unexpected and becomes quite poignant in a little “flashback” scene illustrating something the title character is explaining later on in the film and he begins to put all the stories of the people in the opening sequence together for you.
Tom Cruise plays Reacher as a confident superman of a person... A modern day Doc Savage in a world he has chosen to drop out of but has to “ride into town and clean the place up”... yeah, you got it, Jack Reacher is very much a western dressed in action-thriller clothing but then again, half the films made these days share similar tropes to the movie western so this is not a criticism of the film. Cruise’s Reacher is under control most of the time and the only thing I will be slightly critical of, and Alan Ladd had the same problem back in the day, is that for someone who has so much physical presence (and the way Cruise plays him, he does), Cruise seems a little too short for the role. It’s the first time I’ve noticed that in his films, it’s never made a difference before... but something made me notice that in this one. That being said, though, Cruise makes the character work for him and you can’t fault the actor for making a very good job of a likeable, confident character (although, I’ve not read the book this was based on so I can’t tell if the character as portrayed here is true to the book, I’m afraid. Sorry).
At the end of the day, Jack Reacher is a really well put together film and it’s one that I think a lot of audiences, even the youngsters, will appreciate. It’s not something I could watch over and over through the years but I did really enjoy it and would welcome a sequel if it does the business at the box office. Very much something I would recommend if you like a bit of proper sleuthing tied-in to your action movie.