Movie review: Cruise finds a groove as ‘Jack Reacher’
–A few years ago, Tom Cruise took the starring role in the film “Jack Reacher.” Based on the novels by Lee Child, the film was about a former Navy cop who investigated crimes on his own and seemed to kick a lot of butt.
It was released just days before Christmas in 2012 and probably slipped from most people’s minds. I remember seeing the film, but it didn’t make a huge impression. Yet, nearly four years later, Cruise is back as Reacher in another adaptation from the Child books.
And, surprisingly, I thought this was a better, more compelling film. It seemed to fit Cruise’s talents, and it had a nice assembled cast around him.
“Jack Reacher: Never Go Back” centers on Reacher (Cruise), who’s still out there keeping people honest. As the film begins, he’s just gotten into a brawl, which he won. When the corrupt local sheriff goes to make the arrest, turns out he’s the one that ends up in cuffs. That’s thanks in part to Major Turner (Cobie Smulders), Reacher’s replacement in the Army, who dispatches the military police to bust him for illegal dealings.
Reacher and Turner form a connection, trading phone calls for a bit. When Reacher finally makes his way back to Washington D.C. to meet up with Turner, he finds that she’s been arrested on suspicion of treason. He also finds that a woman has petitioned the Army saying Reacher is the father of her 15-year-old daughter, Samantha (Danika Yarosh).
Reacher sets out to solve a pair of mysteries. First, he wants to know what his connection to Samantha really is. Second, he tries to prove Turner’s innocence. That only pulls him deeper into a dangerous plot that forces him to rescue Turner and go on the run until they can find out the truth.
Cruise is great at creating these kind of film properties. One of his most successful has been “Mission Impossible,” which has featured different actors and directors over the past 20 years but remains a bankable film franchise. And that’s largely a credit to Cruise’s work on screen as Ethan Hunt and behind the scenes as a producer for the franchise.
He’s done the same thing with Jack Reacher. Though the first film got off to a bit of a slow start, it has the bones of being the kind of film franchise he can revisit every few years and connect with audiences. And like “Mission Impossible,” it’s clear that the series will continue to refine and improve.
In “Never Go Back” I liked the supporting cast and I was drawn into the story. Cruise and Smulders worked well on screen together, and Yarosh added a nice dimension as the sassy teen along for the ride. The bad guys weren’t always fully developed or that intimidating, but in some respects it didn’t really matter. This kind of film isn’t about the destination, it’s about the journey. And the journey here was enjoyable.
The franchise blends action and a detective story, mixing in some humor and character building along the way. Reacher is an affable hero, and Cruise settles into the part nicely. This isn’t an exceptional film, but it’s the kind of film you can enjoy watching to fill a Saturday afternoon, and there’s a place for that.
I didn’t think “Never Go Back” was incredible, but it was engaging and entertaining. It was put together well and directed with a steady hand by Edward Zwick, who’s collaborated with Cruise a few times in the past. They have a rapport, and that shows on the screen.
For fans of the genre, or fans of the book series, this will be a movie worth checking out. And for those who have no familiarity with the source material or previous film, this movie is accessible enough to stand on its own.
“Jack Reacher: Never Go Back” has been rated PG-13 by the Motion Picture Association of America for sequences of violence and action, some bloody images, language and thematic elements.