Jack Reacher: Never Go Back
Tom Cruise stars, once again, as the brooding hero Jack Reacher, in Edward Zwicks adaptation of Lee Child’s 18th Jack Reacher novel. This time around, the plot is weaker, but Cruise’s portrayal of the character is stronger.
The first Jack Reacher fought against the casting controversy to bring us a well-plotted film, with a spectacular ending. Tom Cruise’s Reacher is someone who would beat a man to death as soon as look at him, someone struggling to empathise with the simplest emotions. He is a drifter, who passes from town to town, constantly finding himself in fights that he doesn’t start (but you can be sure he’ll end them).
We’re reintroduced to Jack Reacher in a diner. Outside, four men are lying beaten on the ground. It’s the end of his most recent ‘mission’, and results in both the arrest of the local police chief, and Reacher’s first contact with Major Susan Turner (Cobie Smulders). As Reacher drifts from town to town in a montage, he keeps checking in with Turner, and they begin something resembling a long distance relationship, with Jack making the promise to take her to dinner when he arrives in Washington D.C., where she is stationed. Things go awry when he turns up to find her in military prison for espionage, and himself redrafted into the army and charged with the murder of her assigned legal counsel. Add to this the revelation that a young girl in the city might be his daughter, and Reacher is certainly in quite the mess.
The plot is largely a denigration of every other thriller you have ever seen. There’s shady corporations, gun deals, drug money and all manner of faceless goons. Whereas the reveal of the previous film was satisfying, this one will have you screaming the obvious answer at the on-screen Reacher as he ploddingly deciphers why “the numbers don’t add up”. The addition of the will they-won’t they father-daughter relationship is also painful. Samantha Dayton, as played by Danika Yarosh, is one of the most annoying teenagers seen in a film. Granted, her presence does allow for some beautiful restrained acting from Tom Cruise in their final scene, but even that can’t make up for the almost two hours of torture that is witnessing her character.
Cobie Smulders does well to hold her own against Tom Cruise, but at the end of the day it’s his movie. And this time around, he nails Reacher. Cruise plays Reacher as a man who feels, but can’t express that feeling. It’s a masterclass in restraint. But the best parts of the movie are when Zwicks lets Reacher out of the cage. The combination of Zwicks and Cruise gives Jack Reacher a savageness that he needs. In the books, he is a character who can stop a fight with his size alone, so Tom Cruise (who does not have the height to do so) needs another way to convey the fear that his presence should inspire. The confidence, and invulnerability that Cruise
infuses Reacher with makes him a fearsome presence. While the plot struggles to differentiate itself from every other thriller, when Jack Reacher, having just been asked by the villain on the phone if he is afraid, says “I’m going to break your arms. I’m going to break your legs. I’m going to break your neck. I’m not afraid; what you hear is excitement”, I challenge you to not enjoy yourself.
While the second instalment in this burgeoning franchise struggles with it’s weak plot, Tom Cruise presents a more well-rounded Jack Reacher who is closer in tone to the novels.