With Tom Cruise back this week in Jack Reacher: Never Go Back, I take the opportunity to look back on 2012’s Jack Reacher.
I have been reading Jack Reacher books for the better part of 20 years. Since the release of Killing Floor in 1997, I have been fascinated by this larger than life character who roams the world putting right what has gone wrong.
Jack Reacher was the son of a marine, who spent his childhood moving from base to base. When he was old enough, he joined the army and quickly became a Military Police man with a special knack for investigation. At the age of 36, tired of always being told where to be and what to do, decides he is done with the army and musters out. He now lives off the gird, moving from place to place helping the helpless and dishing out his own brand of justice, unencumbered by the law.
There have been 20 Jack Reacher novels to date, with number 21 due out in November. While I wont pretend that they are all classics, it gave film makers a wealthy of material to choose from. In the end they went for 2005’s One Shot as a starting point.
In Pittsburgh, a lone gunman picks off 5 people, seemingly at random. The prime suspect is James Barr, an Iraq veteran with a dodgy past. He claims he is innocent and when interrogated, will only say one thing. Get Jack Reacher. Reacher is already on his way, as he and Barr have some unfinished business. When he arrives, he finds Barr in a coma and a seemingly water tight case against him. It is too perfect and Reacher smells a cover up. Teaming up with Barr’s defence lawyer, he finds himself up against a vicious Russian gangster.
One Shot, was a great book and I am not surprised that they used it as a starting point for Reacher’s cinematic adventures. In the book, Reacher doesn’t feature for nearly 100 pages, which is a long time to be away from your lead character. However, it really works on screen, you see the sniper set up and pick off his target, the arrest of Barr and his interrogation and see him ask for Reacher. We then have have a montage sequence where we meet Reacher, with a voice over giving us all the biographical information we need.
Jack Reacher is played by Tom Cruise, now there was a bit of an uproar when he was cast, with Reacher describe on Lee Child’s page as a man mountain and Cruise coming in at around 5″4. I was among the naysayers, how could they get it so wrong! I was forgetting that Tom Cruise is, well Tom Cruise. His charisma, charm and star power did more that enough to overcome his diminutive stature and he played Reacher brilliantly. Now, this a conclusion that I only came to yesterday as I re-watched the film. On first viewing I still couldn’t get past the height thing. However, with 4 years distance and having read 3 new Reacher books without seeing Cruise in my head as I read them helped. I could watch Jack Reacher and enjoy it for what it was, a strong adaptation of a great book and a pretty good thriller.
While I thought it was okay on first viewing, I really enjoyed it when I re-visited it. This is a great take on Reacher, they have capture the spirit of the character. The film does push the boundaries of it’s 12A rating however, especially in it’s brutal opening sequence, but its brutality is broken up with some moments of real humour, the slapstick nature of a three way fight in a bathroom and the ending of the usually predictable car chase just exudes cool and will please any Jack Reacher fan out there. As I mentioned, Cruise isn’t as tall as Reacher should be, but the spirit of Reacher comes from his character, not his height and they nail his character here.
The supporting cast is strong with Robert Duvall brilliant as the ex-marine gun range owner who comes to Reacher’s aid, with Richard Jenkins and David Oyelowo providing some quality support to stock characters, it is the inspired casting of Werner Herzog that both delights and frustrates. He is brilliant as The Zec, a mysterious Russian gangster, but his role is stripped of the dark and sinister back story from the book, which could have made him one unforgettable villain. Rosamund Pike is the only one who lets the side down as she is as vapid and un-interesting as she always is.
The real star of the show however is Christopher McQuarrie, the stripping of The Zec’s back story aside, he has done a great job on adapting Child’s novel, and the film moves along at a cracking pace. The finale in a rain soaked quarry is thrilling and we get to see just how much of a bad ass Reacher really is.
I really enjoyed this on a second viewing and while Never Go Back is not one of my favourite novels, I am looking forward to seeing Reacher back on the big screen.
What happened next?
Jack Reacher went on to gross over $218m world wide and receive positive reviews for the most part. Cruise, well we know about him. Christopher McQuarrie, would go on to work with Cruise again, writing and directing Mission:Impossible – Rouge Nation. He also wrote Rouge One – A Star Wars Story, which hits cinemas later this year. A sequel to Jack Reacher began filming and is based on the 2013 novel Never Go Back, Tom Cruise returns in the lead role, but McQuarrie is on board as producer only, with Edward Zwick taking over as director (he worked with Cruise on the brilliant 2003 film The Last Samurai)
Before I go, if you enjoyed either of the Jack Reacher films, or just like a good thriller, please indulge me as I pick out my favourite Jack Reacher stories.
Bad Luck and Trouble (2007)
Reacher is forced to get his old unit back together after 4 of its members are killed. You never mess with the special investigators. Probably my favourite Reacher book.
The Enemy (2004)
A prequel, telling of Reacher’s time in the army. He investigates after a 2* General is found dead in a motel room and stumbles into a conspiracy that goes to the highest echelons of the army. It was great to see what Reacher was like in his army days, something Child will revisit in his new novel Night School (2016)
Killing Floor (1997)
Reacher’s first adventure finds him stumbling into a counterfeiting ring as he investigates the death of his brother. A cracking introduction to a great character.
Jack Reacher: Never Go Back is out on Friday 21st October.
Thanks for reading. Hope you folks enjoyed yourselves, catch ya later on down the trail.