Wednesday, 16 September 2020

Movie Review: Jack Reacher (2012)

A clever action thriller, Jack Reacher unleashes an irresistible crime investigator onto a convoluted conspiracy.

In Pittsburgh, five innocent civilians are killed in a seemingly random sniper attack. Physical evidence leads Detective Emerson (David Oyelowo) to ex-army sniper and Iraq war veteran Barr (Joseph Sikora), who is summarily arrested. A stunned Barr requests help from Jack Reacher (Tom Cruise), a crime investigator who served with him in the army and now lives a nomadic off-the-grid existence.

Jack teams up with Barr's lawyer Helen (Rosamund Pike), who is also the daughter of District Attorney Rodin (Richard Jenkins). Jack is aware of Barr's unhinged behaviour in the army, but his investigation into the Pittsburgh killings suggests Barr was the fall guy for a larger conspiracy. Both Jack and Helen are soon targets of the ruthless criminal enterprise behind a sinister plot.

An adaptation of the book One Shot by Lee Child, Jack Reacher is a slick and relatively grounded crime thriller. Director Christopher McQuarrie and star Tom Cruise combine to deliver quick paced and special effects-free action with a dash of biting humour. Rational editing, glistening night-time cinematography, an involving plot, and a cheeky attitude elevate the entertainment value.

Of course with Reacher quickly established as the epitome of cool heroism, some suspension of disbelief is required to ride out his antics. Reacher can outfight any number of goons, even when he literally finds himself with only a knife in the middle of a gunfight. He out-thinks friends and enemies alike, connecting barely visible conspiracy dots with remarkable prescience. And on close inspection, the central evil plot carries the whiff of bad guys choosing the most complicated route towards achieving their objective.

But the highlights are plenty. McQuarrie stages a one-against-many street fight with panache, and follows it up with a hilarious confined quarters brawl. The car chase scene is an epic two-chases-in-one combo delivered with exceptional control. And the final showdown is suitably orchestrated at an isolated quarry, with caustic humour sustained to the bitter end.

In addition to his radiant charisma, Cruise adds to the sense of realism by performing all his own stunts, and struts through the film with brilliant arrogance. Pike struggles to match him in a marginally frantic performance. Robert Duvall rolls back the years in a crusty role as the operator of a shooting range reluctantly drawn into the mayhem, while Jenkins and Oyelowo contribute robust support. Celebrated director Werner Herzog adds cold menace in a small acting role.

Discarding gadgets and over-the-top imagery in favour of polished grit, Jack Reacher is a welcome embrace of brainy basics.



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