Jack Reacher

Leaping straight from the pages of author Lee Child’s long-running popular novels and short stories, the tough-as-nails Jack Reacher has arrived on the big screen as the latest starring role franchise for Tom Cruise. Although described by Child as 6’5”, 250 pounds, with blond hair, Cruise does an admirable job of bringing the no-nonsense former military investigator to life.

For those unfamiliar with the series, Reacher first appeared in the 1997 novel Killing Floor and has appeared annually in new novels and short stories. Adapted from the tenth book, 2005’s One Shot, the film tells the story of a horrific sniper attack on the citizens of Pittsburgh. Faced with overwhelming evidence against him and being coerced into confessing to avoid the death penalty, the suspect in the shootings simply asks for them to find Jack Reacher.

This is easier said than done as after leaving the military, Reacher lives pretty much off the grid. He travels by bus, and aside from making occasional deductions from his monthly military pension, there is very little to indicate his existence since he doesn’t keep too much of the trappings of a traditional lifestyle or routine.

But thanks to a shared past with the shooting suspect, Reacher goes to the police after seeing the news reports and agrees that the evidence against the suspect is overwhelming. Reacher also admits to having past encounters with the suspect which explains his arrival as he promised that should the accused shooter ever get in trouble again, Reacher would be there to ensure that justice prevails.

At this point the accused’s attorney Helen (Rosamund Pike) enters the picture and informs Reacher that she seeks to ensure the accused gets a fair trial. A big chunk of her motivation comes from the fact that the district attorney prosecuting the case is her father. Helen believes that his perfect record is due largely to the fact that suspects get badgered into signing confessions to avoid the death penalty rather than having their day in court.

The presence of Reacher does not prove popular. The district attorney who pleads with his daughter not to use him in her case because Reacher’s credibility is highly suspect due to his unconventional existence. Undaunted Reacher does what he does best which is solving cases and in the process stirs up plenty of trouble as he quickly realizes everything is not as it seems. The supposedly open and shut case is just the tip of a much larger conspiracy in which he and Helen now find themselves squarely in the crosshairs.

The film cleverly mixes humor, action, and drama with a very credible plot that rarely strains plausibility. The characters have very clear-cut motivations and flaws and do not come across just polished and flawless cinematic heroes. Cruise keeps enough mystery about Reacher to keep the character interesting even though throughout the film I was very aware that I was watching Tom Cruise play the character rather than becoming the character.

There is some solid supporting work in film especially by Robert Duvall and writer-director Christopher McQuarrie does a great job with the pacing of the film as well as providing a framework for Cruise to do what he does best. This bodes well for the future as the duo is scheduled to team up again for “Top Gun 2”, and the next “Mission Impossible” movie.

While there are segments the film that are a little slow in the buildup, the payoff was highly satisfying if slightly Hollywood cliché-ish. Thanks to a great cast and a clever script the movie does hold your attention. I, for one, am hoping that there are further cinematic outings for Reacher in the near future.

3.5 stars out of 5.