Jack Reacher is a tough guy, a loner and according to Lee Child's novels of which the character is featured; he's 6' 5" and built like a WWE wrestler! Enter Tom Cruise, arguably the only actor in Hollywood standing 5' 7" with the tenacity, skill and sheer screen presence to transcend the physical description and authentically embody such a mammoth character.
Child's ninth Jack Reacher novel One Shot is the basis of director Christopher McQuarrie's film and centers on a seemingly straight forward case involving a sniper randomly killing innocent people. Jack Reacher is mysteriously asked by the alleged perpetrator to cast an eye over the case, as it transpires the pair served in the Iraq War together. Whilst it becomes clear that all is not as it seems with the case, a well developed and intriguing narrative is delivered which is nothing less than expected from director Christopher McQuarrie; creator of the classic film The Usual Suspects.
Cruise plays this role in a no-nonsense, matter of fact way which really allows him to shine as Reacher. He swaggers through the film with the confidence and authority of a 6'5" WWE wrestler and delivers a believable, genuinely entertaining performance, full of character, wit and good old-fashioned justice. With classic lines such as "I mean to beat you to death, and drink your blood from a boot". You can't help but to enjoy watching Reacher kick and punch his way to the truth. His portrayal of the elusive army veteran who lives in the shadows and only surfaces to right some wrongs and beat down a few bad guys, conjures up a real old school feeling to the film but it's firmly seated in the 21st century thanks to the direction and vision of McQuarrie.
The director paints a poignant picture right from the outset as the sniper gets to work in picking off his victims and this sets a very dark, gritty tone for the film that pulls no punches when demonstrating how nasty the bad guys really are, including a literally hard hitting scene involving a poor unsuspecting young lady. McQuarrie deals with the action sequences with much flair and finesse and there are a number of high octane car chases which will keep the action junkies happy. There are also some superb fight scenes in which Reacher demonstrates his superior hand to hand combat style, whilst comically predicting the outcome of an imminent five on one battle to the unsuspecting bad guys.
Whilst the plot is relatively straightforward with a few twists thrown in for good measure, the performances of the supporting cast adds to a well constructed film. British actress Rosamund Pike (Wrath of the Titans) puts on her finest American accent and delivers a solid performance as Helen Rodin, the defense attorney / potential love interest working alongside Reacher to prove the sniper's innocence. Fellow Brit David Oyelowo (The Last King of Scotland) also puts in an accomplished performance as tough, confident detective Emerson who investigated and arrested the sniper.
Perhaps the stroke of genius was casting the veteran director Werner Herzog (Grizzly Man, Rescue Dawn) as the film's big boss bad guy. Just the sight of his menacing face brought raptures of laughter and applauds from the audience. Maybe not the reaction that you would expect in seeing the main villain on the screen but the sentiment was appropriate, as the audience was just so excited to see the beloved director in such a dramatic, surprising role. Herzog certainly didn't disappoint and delivers a chilling performance as Russian criminal overlord, the Zec. My only criticism would be he was seriously underused and deserved even more screen time with Herzog. It was great to see Robert Duvall (Crazy Heart) pop up later on in the film, and he puts in a commendable stint as one of Reacher allies.
All in all Jack Reacher is another notch on Tom Cruise's action hero belt and demonstrates why he is still one the most bankable action men in Hollywood. The combination of Cruise and McQuarrie alongside an excellent supporting cast delivers a sharp, entertaining and thoroughly enjoyable action thriller which will no doubt be the first of many Jack Reacher adventures.