Jack Reacher review

Banana Rating: 4 out of 5

I’ve read the first three Jack Reacher books (Killing Floor, Die Try­ing and Trip­wire). There’s another four­teen of the bug­gers after that, includ­ing a few short stor­ies. In the space of those three books, I like to think I’ve got a pretty good idea of what makes Jack Reacher tick.

He’s not a com­plic­ated char­ac­ter, or one that dis­plays any dis­cern­ible per­sonal growth between books. In that respect, he reminds me of James Bond. If James Bond were to have quit MI6, and spent the rest of his life “off the grid”, wan­der­ing from place to place, and get­ting into adventures.

Like Bond, Reacher is some­thing of a ridicu­lous char­ac­ter. This isn’t a cri­ti­cism. No, if any­thing, it’s a com­pli­ment. Reacher is basic­ally a psy­cho­path whose sheer mas­culin­ity — and expert­ise at eye gou­ging and thou­sand yard sniper shots — turns women’s panties moist with anti­cip­a­tion at the moonlit/stormlit/sunlit (delete as applic­able) roger­ing they’re about to receive.

So why’s that a com­pli­ment? It’s because the author, Lee Child, seems to take his cre­ation extremely ser­i­ously. There’s a breath-taking lack of irony in the pages of a Jack Reacher novel. There’s no room for the type of post­mod­ern­ism that gets hip­sters spill­ing their skinny latte in their laps with sheer excite­ment. Reacher is old school, a hard man loner that seems sort of silly now. But it’s that mix­ture of sil­li­ness and ser­i­ous­ness, that makes a Jack Reacher novel such a fun, com­puls­ive read.

So does all this cross over into the first film adapt­a­tion? It’s a resound­ing yes. The dir­ector, Chris­topher McQuar­rie, is a man who gets it. In attempt­ing to play it straight, he draws inspir­a­tion from the nineteen-seventies, when thrillers had a cold, hard, ser­i­ous edge to them. This is no more clear than in the open­ing sniper scene, where a lone gun­man shoots five ran­dom strangers from a build­ing across a river.

McQuar­rie makes great use of music in this scene. As the sniper drives to his des­tin­a­tion, the soundtrack thumps nois­ily, only to drop away to silence after he’s arrived, posi­tioned his rifle, and begun sweep­ing the crosshairs over his poten­tial vic­tims. All we can hear is the sniper’s breath­ing. It’s chilling.

The music kicks back in once the carnage has ended, and the cops have rolled up to begin their invest­ig­a­tion. The open­ing eight minutes or so are not­able for hav­ing almost no dia­logue, apart from a SWAT team mem­ber shout­ing, “Move!”. That one com­mand breaks up the word­less open­ing, and I wish it had been removed to make the scene even cooler.

Still, inno­cent people have been shot! And there’s noth­ing cool about that! It proves to be the cata­lyst for a swift intro­duc­tion to Jack Reacher him­self. We fol­low him from the bed of a name­less woman he appears to have had intim­ate rela­tions with, onto a bus, and to the town where the shoot­ings took place.

It’s a simple story really, which actu­ally blows one of its twists early on. We’re left know­ing more than some of the major char­ac­ters, wait­ing for them to catch up with us. It seems odd at first. Why does McQuar­rie do that? I have a feel­ing the inten­tion is to help the viewer identify with Reacher more read­ily. He’s a super­man, quick with his fists and his brains. Not someone who’s par­tic­u­larly easy to relate to. He always seems to know what’s going on before those around him do. By being in on the twist, it’s almost like the viewer is Jack Reacher. It cre­ates that con­nec­tion. We can feel smug too!

But is Tom Cruise Jack Reacher? When his cast­ing was announced, there was some con­cern. Reacher in the books is a moun­tain of a man, well over six-foot. Not traits you would neces­sar­ily equate with a pint-sized Tom Cruise. Whilst he does the best he can, I don’t think he’s quite right for the role. Author Lee Childis dip­lo­matic, say­ing, “Reacher’s size in the books is a meta­phor for an unstop­pable force, which Cruise por­trays in his own way.”

I don’t want to be overly crit­ical. The guy gives it his all, prov­ing good value in the fight scenes, and espe­cially in his stunt work driv­ing cars at high-speed. But he’s too small of frame. Reacher should be a bit rough around the edges too, a guy who’s took all the knocks and come through the other side, tougher than ever. A smoothie like Tom Cruise doesn’t quite fit that pro­file, des­pite his best efforts.

Whether Cruise is suit­able or not, most of the film’s suc­cess can be attrib­uted to McQuar­rie, who I think is a great dir­ector. He’s a guy who orches­trates action in an old school way. The middle of the film has a car chase which show­cases his skill. He under­stands when to slow a scene down, then pick up the pace again, giv­ing an action set piece a nice ebb and flow. He’s def­in­itely under­rated. Mind you, it’s prob­ably his own fault. He is unpro­lific. He reminds me of Wal­ter Hill in his prime, and I wish he would get behind the cam­era more often.

I’d love to see him do a Jack Reacher 2.

Just how intense is Tom Cruise in Jack Reacher?

Start­ing with my Obli­vion review, I’m now meas­ur­ing Tom Cruise’s intens­ity in each of his movies. So just how intense is Tom Cruise in Jack Reacher?

95%. Pos­sibly the most intense I’ve seen Tom since, well, since I saw his last movie a few days ago. But it’s a strange one. It’s kind of a mid level intens­ity. But one that remains almost con­stant through­out the movie. There are less highs and lows. For instance, Tom never really chills out with a beer at some­thing like 20% intens­ity, fol­lowed by a scene where he sud­denly leaps to 90% intensity.

His intens­ity levels tend to hover around the 70% to 80% mark with occa­sional spikes to either 90% or 99% intens­ity. So I think, roughly, for the whole of the movie, this aver­ages out to 95%. Again, I would like to stress that there is no sci­ence or genu­ine maths behind these cal­cu­la­tions. They’re simply fig­ures plucked out of thin air, based on pure gut instinct. Shit, Jack Reacher would be proud of me.