You could almost hear the dismay when Tom Cruise was announced as the actor chosen to play Jack Reacher in the film adaptation.
There are many adventures to choose from and the 2012 film went for One Shot to introduce the character onto the big screen.
Though that means much of the backstory is omitted, you are treated to some exceptional action scenes that do more than enough to get the plot moving.
The Man Off The Grid
This may seem like a familiar tale of a man off the grid working for the Feds and essentially finding his own way to justice.
It’s been done in the Bond series yet Jack Reacher uses a witty script to its advantage with some craftily thought-out scenes.
While the books may delve into the character’s more flamboyant escapades with the ladies, the film keeps it to a 12A rating by only showing what needs to be shown and keeping it clean.
Without showing Cruise’s face, the film delivers on Reacher’s impressive methods with the ladies simply by showing their reactions.
When the Feds are wondering how on Earth they are going to bring Reacher in while the military investigator remains decidedly off-grid, a secretary simply announces that she has ‘a Jack Reacher for you’, allowing the camera to capture the reaction.
Before you even see Cruise, you already have a full understanding of the character, and considering the response to his casting, that’s exceptionally well-played.
Does Tom Cruise’s Size Matter?
Here’s the crux of it, while the Jack Reacher film may work as a modern-day thriller, long-standing fans of the novel simply will not see Cruise as Reacher.
That’s not to take away from Cruise’s performance, impressive as it may be, yet you cannot see the actor playing a character who’s reportedly 6’ 5”.
No props, no clever camera tricks, and no Cuban heels are going to present Cruise as the Lee Child’s Jack Reacher, not by the book’s definition.
Yet, despite all that you are left wondering if any actor would have done a better job.
A Brutally-Edged Thriller
Once you can accept Cruise as Reacher, the action film more than holds its own in an arena where Bourne and Bond seemingly reign supreme.
This is largely due to Christopher McQuarrie’s direction as he and Cruise have teamed up to great effect on the Mission Impossible series.
There are car chases signed off with a lovely grace note yet the fight scenes still pack a punch, just as you would expect Reacher to.
Yes, this is a 12A rating yet when you see what they do with eye sockets and hear the full effects of a baseball bat on the human body then you may want to wonder how it achieved that rating.
Werner Herzog’s Casting
Perhaps more eyebrows should have been raised at the German director, Werner Herzog, being cast as the European villain.
Though it may make viewers see similarities with Die Hard’s Hans Gruber (arguably the greatest villain in action films played by Alan Rickman), Herzog gets by with little screen time.
Herzog plays ‘The Zec’, Reacher’s nemesis though many would fail to understand who he came to be Reacher’s nemesis as the film does away with any backstory.
A Plot With A Few Twists
If you did want to get up to speed with the books then you should set aside some time to get through the series.
What the film does is introduce Reacher in a plot that shifts and saunters with confidence to leave you gripped to the very end.
For fans of the books, the film’s climax will not be a total surprise yet for newcomers there is enough wrong-footing to satisfy anyone who thinks they have cracked it before the end.
McQuarrie As The Real Star
If the casting of Cruise as the title star was a major problem then there are few more accomplished directors than McQuarrie to ensure that the film would go smoothly.
By the end, you can simply accept Cruise as Reacher, such is McQuarrie’s adept direction for brutal action scenes with a touch of slapstick thrown in.
Though this is set in the modern day, there are a few hints back towards 70s cinema, of deep stares and harsh scenes that make you fully believe in a character, even with the height disparity.
Some would argue that the action film sector is becoming increasingly crowded.
Though book adaptations can become tricky, trying to pass off a character who fails to match the book’s physical description should be seen as a risky move, but not with Tom Cruise.
What difference should a foot or so in height make anyway when the plot and the action scenes can suitably deliver?
Few could envisage Tom Cruise as Jack Reacher yet such is his performance that you can allow the disparity and fully enjoy a gripping thriller.
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