Director: Christopher McQuarrie
Starring: Tom Cruise, Richard Jenkins, Rosamund Pike, Jai Courtney, Werner Herzog, Robert Duvall, David Oyelowo, Joseph Sikora.
Running Time: 130 Minutes
Synopsis: A military homicide investigator digs deeper into a case involving a trained military sniper who shot five random victims and uncovers a deeper conspiracy to frame an innocent man.
Perhaps more familiar to the world as the Oscar-winning screenwriter of Bryan Singer’s devious crime-puzzler THE USUAL SUSPECTS, it’s hard to believe it is twelve years since Christopher McQuarrie made his directorial debut. For those few that caught his modern noir, THE WAY OF THE GUN (featuring a career-best Ryan Phillippe, as well as Benicio Del Toro, Juliette Lewis and James Caan), most will remember it as a brutal, brilliantly structured and cruelly overlooked crime classic.
The commercial failure of his film left McQuarrie disillusioned with the steps he’d taken in building that first project, so he immersed himself back into writing and script polishing after taking a well-earned sabbatical, which leads us to now. He previously collaborated with Tom Cruise (and Singer) on 2008s historical war thriller VALKYRIE, and now the duo set out to tackle Lee Child’s ruthless military cop JACK REACHER, in a film based on the author’s 9th novel to feature the character – ‘One Shot’. Initially just a writing gig, it was Cruise that suggested McQuarrie get back behind the camera for the first time since his debut while considering candidates to helm. So has the wait been worth it and is Cruise able to pull-off the role that fans of Child’s literary hero initially became critical of his casting? The answer to both those questions has got to be…absolutely!
McQuarrie again has crafted a clinical and labyrinthine thriller full of surprises and not a million miles away from the tactically-inspired 1970s crime thrillers he paid homage to in his first merciless movie. The opening makes a brave statement as we follow what seems to be a snipers ritual in a bold move to have not one word of dialogue in those first 10 minutes. The gripping build up certainly pulls you in through a sight target, only to shock as said sniper, taking what feels like an eternity, before unleashing pot-shots at innocent civilians in a seemingly random killing spree. As the perpetrator calmly collects his things and exits his location, the cops duly arrive to an open and shut case with all evidence pointing to James Barr (although we know it to be another after witnessing Jai Courtney’s Charlie commit the atrocity). Enter Cruise’s drifter JACK REACHER, who has some complex history with the accused following years as an army investigator. It soon becomes clear to the smart-thinking (and smart-mouthed) former military cop, the perfect crime is just too perfect.
Cruise is on top form and dominates every scene he’s in which is a credit considering the character is described in Child’s novels as 6ft 5” and 250-plus pounds. A lot of that is down to McQuarrie’s sharp, biting script, which at times is hilarious, heartfelt and downright vicious. Zingy dialogue that is sure to make the film a quotable future archetype. The supporting cast too are strong with the ever-dependable Richard Jenkins maybe not seen enough but the luscious leggy lawyer played by Rosamund Pike and David Oyelowo’s determined detective Emmerson are decent. However, possibly most eye-catching of all is rising Aussie Jai Courtney as the ruthless cohort to Werner Herzog’s lizard-like villain The Zec. Both are memorable (as is the fun cameo from Robert Duvall) and it will interesting to see just how Hollywood takes to Courtney following this effort and of course the forthcoming, A GOOD DAY TO DIE HARD. I suspect a career much like his fellow Australian countryman Chris Hemsworth, is surely destined. His screen presence is matched only by his physique.
There are also a number of impressive set-pieces, most notable a crushing car chase to rival classics BULLITT, THE FRENCH CONNECTION and THE DARK KNIGHT, along with some ferocious fight choreography not seen since the best of Bourne. Overall, JACK REACHER is unforgiving brutality (surprising given it’s 12A rating) with an edge-of-your-seat plot that draws you in, whether flying with fists or just a revelatory conversation. Don’t make us wait so long next time, Chris!