Have you ever had the experience of watching a film and almost instinctively knowing how it’ll progress? I’m not talking about a predictable film with a basic plot, but one where you’re “in” the movie and understand the character and how their actions will play out. This may happen because it’s about your day job. As a Phage, I just knew how my viral peers would act in Contagion – I knew every move that would happen before it did. Maybe you’re a clinically-diagnosed psychopath, which enabled you to see the progress of Seven Psychopaths like some kind of deranged oracle? Well, with Jack Reacher I too felt like I knew about a sniper’s motivations before they became apparent. Not because the film was predictable. Not because I’m actually an assassinating phage… But because I played a pretty similar video game recently.
Jack Reacher is the latest film directed by, and starring, Tom Cruise. It’s another of those oh-so-popular novel adaptations that you see so frequently nowadays. Cruise is Jack Reacher – a decorated war veteran who’s somewhat of a problem solver. The ultimate detective. So when a sniper goes on to assassinate five random people at a riverside in Pittsburgh and is subsequently arrested, he asks for Jack Reacher. Because it turns out the case is not as simply solved as one might at first presume.
So why did I feel like I knew some of the plot twists? Well, thanks to seeing countless films and playing video games that deal with a similar premise. Plus a good dose of common sense. That’s not to belittle the overarching plot at all, as it’s still interesting, it’s just that you can see some of the supposed “curveballs” coming at you from quite a distance. Only the unobservant viewer would be shocked by the unfolding revelations. Having said all that, it’s still a solid film.
One of the key assets of the movie is its lead actor: Tom Cruise. Cruise has recently hit a run of form and this easily trumps all his performances of the last five years. He’s broody, he’s intense and he’s witty. It’s this latest point that really hits home throughout the film. Cruise delivers some truly delicious lines throughout the film in a very dry, off-the-cough manner – all of which had the audience laughing as a whole. A great thing to witness in what can be a very serious film. Speaking of which, I couldn’t help but think back to the events in Newtown last week when I saw the opening gambit to the movie. It comes as no surprise that the US release has been delayed by the shooting, as it does cut close to the bone if you’re sensitive to such issues.
So whilst Cruise is on top form, can the same be said of the rest of the cast? Well, it’s a mixed bag. Sure, you have the talent of Robert Duvall and Helen Pike, who are both great. But to be honest, not all of the characters get the fleshing out they deserve; so they appear somewhat one dimensional. This is especially true of David Oyelowo‘s Detective Emerson and Jai Courtney‘s Charlie. Oyelowo‘s detective’s motives are transparently clear from start to end and Courtney‘s thuggish enforcer, Charlie, is just a simple thug. There’s no shock, no surprise, no nothing. He does exactly what you’d expect. I also can’t help but wonder if they cast someone hoping he’d be as good as Tom Hardy in the “menacing bruiser” role. He isn’t. I’ll be interested to see how Courtney acts as John McClane Jr. in A Good Day to Die Hard next year. He’s going to have his work cut out for him to match Willis there. And I’ll probably write that they should have cast Tom Hardy in that too.
Finally, I want to draw attention to the romantic sub-plot that so often plagues these types of films (spare The Bourne Identity). Director Christopher McQuarrie really knows how to handle sexual tension. It makes for a really refreshing “relationship” and makes the character of Jack Reacher all the more appealing. He’s a man who’s there to get the job done. Not one to waste his time being all soppy and loving.
Although Jack Reacher is a solid action / suspense film, it’s not going to set the world alight. I’m hopeful that we’ll see the character again on-screen in an almost inevitable sequel, much like we did with Jason Bourne in The Bourne Identity. It’s clear that Tom Cruise enjoyed the role and I like the character as a whole. He just needs a more meaty task with a more sturdy supporting cast. And perhaps a more novel plot.
I’m pretty sure I could be Jack Reacher. After all, I’ve played a good few games and seen all the episodes of the BBC’s fabulous Sherlock series. I could combine the lethal reflexes I’ve learned with the intellect I’ve drawn from Benedict Cumberbach‘s Sherlock. Though in reality, I’m pretty sure that the only “skills” I’ll have gained are calloused thumbs from the gamepad and a knowledge of the script of the series. So if anyone’s hiring for a case where all I have to do is press a button and spew lines, then screw Reacher – hire The Phage!