Friday, 24 January 2020

Movie review: Jack Reacher, dir Christopher McQuarrie (2012)

McQuarrie worked with Tom Cruise again, in two ‘Mission: Impossible’ films, one that was released in 2018 and one that was released in 2015. Neither ‘Fallout’ nor ‘Rogue Nation’ was very good in terms of characterisation and the plots were supported in both cases by intricate backstories that were hard to put together. I wasn’t overly impressed by either of them and the film I review this time sits in the same category.

‘Jack Reacher’, based on a 2005 novel by Lee Child titled ‘One Shot’, also has a complex backstory but the plot is well-crafted although the most prominent sentiment is a bit cloying. Tight relationships – father and daughter, those made between soldiers in the army – help to outline the main character, a retired military policeman living off a pension, who doesn’t own a car. Reacher turns up in Pittsburgh only after seeing on TV the face and name of a purported killer but he is actually named by this man when the cops talk with the man after his arrest.

When Reacher starts to doubt the story the police have assembled from the evidence left at the spot where a sniper stood, he is attacked outside a bar and (predictably) kicks some butt, but the experience makes him doubt more. He was initially asked to cooperate on the case by Helen Rodin (Rosamund Pike), the accused’s defence attorney who is also the daughter of the district attorney (Richard Jenkins).

The irrational appears to triumph over the rational in this film, though the plot paradoxically turns on the investigative powers Reacher brings to bear on the facts in the case. The more he learns the more questions he asks and this tired fictional trope clunks away dutifully to the end of the film without relief for the audience. Cruise runs a sharp line of humour in many of the films he appears in but this tactic wasn’t used for this one, which is probably due to what I assumed to be the dour tone of the book it’s based on; injustice is the main subject.

In fact the story has the feel of an 80s police procedural, from the use of papers in the glovebox of a car to the kinds of hokey conversations Reacher holds with various people, including the manager of a shooting range named Cash (Robert Duvall) who takes a shine to the hero. And the staging and camera work fits the bill. It all falls together beautifully.

For me A standout performance was that given by Alexia Fast, who does a very good job as a young local Pittsburgh woman named Sandy. I liked the hardboiled writing behind her character, and the way she makes you believe she is who she is. Her role in the story adds something extra to her nuanced performance, which is at the same time playful and dark.

In the end I wasn’t blown away by this film, which I watched on Netflix, and this surprised me given how successful Child is. I have tried to read one of this Englishman’s books but I didn’t get very far. 

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