By Jon Gallagher
(Paramount Pictures, 2012) – Director: Christopher McQuarrie. Starring Tom Cruise, Rosamund Pike, Werner Herzog, & Robert Duvall.
Those of us who are Lee Child fans have been waiting a long time for one of his books to be made into a movie. Child has penned 17 novels over the last 15 years, all of them featuring the ultimate loner Jack Reacher as the protagonist. Reacher is an ex-Military Policeman who has no home, carries no credit cards, and owns only the clothes on his back and a folding toothbrush which he keeps in a pocket. In the novels, Reacher always seems to just be roaming around the country when he happens upon an injustice, which requires him to kill several people while saving the day. He manages to live off his Army pension by having money wired to himself from the one thing he does own which is a bank account.
When it was announced that a movie was going to be made of one of Child’s novels, I was pretty excited. When I found out the movie was going to be based on his 2006 novel One Shot, I was even more excited. One Shot was one of the better novels Child has written and featured an intricate plot filled with twists and turns that kept you turning pages and guessing till the end.
I think I finished the book in two days. Usually a novel and I are partners for at least a week, sometimes 10 days.
Then came the bad news. Tom Cruise had been cast in the lead role. Now personally, I don’t have anything against Tom Cruise. In fact, I like most of his movies. There was just one small (pardon the upcoming pun) problem and that’s Cruise’s size. Child’s character is always listed at 6’5” while Cruise, at 5’6” is almost a full foot short of that. He’d be better suited to play a member of the Lollipop Guild rather than Jack Reacher.
I was also afraid they’d screw with the plot. On his website, Child assured his fans that Cruise was a good choice for Reacher and that he was happy with the script. Good enough for me.
The movie starts in Pittsburgh – the entire movie is filmed in the city – where a random shooting takes place. A highly-trained sniper shoots five random people along a walkway, then flees the scene. He leaves behind a plethora of evidence including a spent shell casing, tire tracks and shoe prints in some concrete dust, video of his van and its license plate pulling in and out of the structure, a pristine bullet which missed victims but lodged itself in a liquid dispenser, and a quarter with his thumbprint, found in the parking meter inside the garage.
It looks like a slam dunk for the prosecutor as they find the alleged sniper, passed out on his bed at home with the van in the garage and his boots by the door. They find the gun used in the shooting and his workshop for making his own ammunition. He had been trained as a sniper by the United States Army. While he is being questioned, he writes a note that says, “GET JACK REACHER.”
Before the police can attempt to contact Reacher, the suspect is beaten into a coma by other inmates. While the cops and DA puzzle about how to find this Reacher character, he shows up.
We learn, as Reacher begins to work with the suspect’s attorney Helen Rodin, daughter of District Attorney Rodin, that Reacher had come to find the suspect after hearing about the shooting on the news. Reacher, as an MP, had arrested the suspect in Iraq for going rogue and killing four “innocent” Iranian citizens, using the sniper techniques he’d been taught and had practiced for years. The suspect had gotten off on a technicality, but Reacher promised him that if he ever did anything like this again, he would come looking for him.
Reacher is convinced of the guy’s guilt from the get go. But when all the evidence seems to be too good to be true, and thugs start showing up to try and take him out, Reacher decides to stick around and dig a little deeper into the case. Thus, the rest of the movie is spent watching Jack Reacher beat up bad guys, run from cops, and try to save the female attorney he’s managed to put in danger.
The movie is decent. I enjoyed it and I went in thinking the worst (because I usually like the book better). In this case, the movie was every bit as good as I remember the book (I read it six years ago – I grab Lee Child’s books before the ink is dry). The dialogue seems to be forced at times and that did bother me, and there was a chase scene that I could have done without, but screenwriter (and director) Christopher McQuarrie stayed relatively loyal to the book (dialogue is the hardest thing to write for some people).
The villain is played by Werner Herzog, a director in his own right with more than 50 documentaries under his belt, and he is excellent. Rosamund Pike, a Bond girl from 10 years ago tackles the role of the female attorney, but the role still managed to rush for a first down plus. She was not impressive.
Robert Duvall plays a gunshop owner and is entertaining as he lends assistance to Reacher in the end. Old crusty men must be an easy role to play because I’ve given good reviews to several of them now.
Detective Emerson (David Oyelowo) and DA Rodin (Richard Jenkins) seem like they’re also just filling roles, but I’ll blame that on McQuarrie since he not only wrote the characters, but also told them how to play them. Jai Cortney is very good in the villainous second-banana role and deserves a mention.
Finally, Cruise did a good job with his performance. Personally, I would have cast someone else in the role had I been directing. Jim Caviezel of CBS’s Person of Interest comes to mind immediately, but his character on that show is more Jack Reacher-ish than the one seen in this movie. Dwayne Johnson might have been a good choice as well. I can’t fault Cruise for his performance because it was good; I just can’t say it was the right person for the role. Though if I had to give out the Best Actor of the Movie here, it would go to Cruise.
Part of the reason I’m going to rate it so high is because of the ending. I won’t say more than that so that it’s not ruined for you, but I thought the ending alone warranted a slightly higher rating of the movie overall.
I do have to admit that the beginning of this movie made me extremely uncomfortable. Granted it was filmed quite a while ago, but it was released just a week after the tragedy in Newtown, Connecticut. In the opening sequence, when the sniper is sighting his victims, we see the crosshairs of his scope trained on several potential targets, including a small child. In fact, when the sniper fires a shot in her direction, we’re not sure till much later in the movie whether the small girl was hit or whether it was the person carrying her.
I certainly hope that theaters in and around the Newtown area had enough sense to postpone the opening of this movie for a while. This is neither an argument for or against gun control; it’s observation based on compassion for an area of our country that could use a little right now.