Jason Bourne is a bit erratic and so is James Bond.Not every year brings one of their adventures and thrills to the screen.The number of fantasy adventure and comic book franchises continues to multiply, not always with good results.So there exists a space for a crime fighter who is endowed with the charm of Bond and the superhuman level of training of Jason Bourne. Enter Tom Cruise as Jack Reacher, based on series of bestseller novels by Lee Child.He is an army investigator who decided to quit and became a phantom.He cannot be found unless he wants to be. When 5 people are killed in a random shooting which obviously has been carried out by a person of sniper level capabilities the police act fast and mine the crime scene to nab a suspect.The case against him appears hermetically sealed.His fingerprints,DNA,shell casings everything matches.The district attorney has a big reputation, the files he picks up to prosecute have a 100% conviction rate and the accused often take the choice he gives them – the chair or life.
The suspect this time does neither.He asks for Jack Reacher and in walks Tom Cruise.He wants to be found this time, and turns up very punctually indeed.He informs the investigators that he knows the suspect from the days in service in the gulf.The suspect is indeed a trained shooter and went crazy at the end of his service and shot a few people to scratch his trigger happy fingers.He was let off partly due to Jack Reachers intervention who made a pact that he would be contacted if anything went amiss in future.Reacher examines the evidence and is puzzled, everything fits in too neatly but the modus operandi is at odds with the suspects military training.He would have done it in an easier way, and certainly would not have left the crime scene a goldmine of evidence.Its almost as if he wanted to be caught!
We meet the idealist defence attorney Helen played by the beautiful Rosamund Pike. She too is convinced of his guilt but wants to keep him off death row, she has bones to pick with her dad who is the district attorney played a bit unconvincingly by Richard Jenkins, otherwise a superb actor.
With this set up we follow the duo on their race to unravel the truth and suddenly the case does seen as straightforward.The action follows the well trodden path of hunting down an elusive mysterious evil character with obscure motives and the hero acting against his training and impulses to save the damsel in distress.The great German director Werner Herzog and veteran actor Robert Duvall provide some solid character to the film in two small but entertaining roles. What they are up to is not my business to disclose here.
Tom Cruise occupies most of the screen time in a performance that is at best a mixed bag.He tries to appear mysterious and trying to exercise tremendous self-control in not revealing his superlative mental and physical prowesses.His turn in Michael Mann’s Collateral as a ruthless killer worked better, here in Christopher McQuarrie’s lesser hands he loses focus at times.It must a pain being Tom Cruise, with endless divorces and getting remarried to approved brides “arranged” by the Church of Scientology. Jack Reacher is an interesting attempt at selling Tom Cruise as a vigilante type ex cop with the killer instincts of Jason Bourne.He neither has the charm of Bond nor the conflicted character of Bourne.Neither does this work as an extension of his Mission Impossible Ethan Hunt character armed with sexy gizmos and feathering incredible stunts.
The interesting thing about this film is the atmosphere it invokes, there are no smartphones in sight and without the few dated cellphones the film could as well have been set in the eighties or even seventies. The black cop who is working the case appears like a seventies Sidney Poitier kind of character down to his suit.His air is that of a racially oppressed soul from the sixties and not a police detective in contemporary America.It is this sense of an unglamorous time and space, which the current lot of films have abandoned, that gives the film its uniqueness.
Most striking of course is the crime itself, we seen ordinary people through a rifles telescopic viewfinder.The viewfinder tracks the subjects at random and suddenly five people are dead in what appears chillingly like the many random gun massacres which have happened in the past year in America.The film establishes another kind of potential gun criminal, a crazed war veteran who is trained to kill and cannot do without it.That the kind of weapons used in the army are available in Wall Mart is clearly asking for trouble.
The clammy dialogues are another area where the film slips up, you can literally see the screen writer scratching and rewriting the dialogues which appear forced at times.The film draws to a satisfactory close, albeit without a kiss for the girl from Jack Reacher.Watch it if you need a regular dose of crime thrillers. McQuarrie who wrote the brilliant film The Usual Suspects and some not so great films, is a competent director and creates a timeless atmosphere starting with the great opening sequence but needs to deliver more. I suspect with the number of tickets Tom Cruise is selling, Jack Reacher should be back, maybe with another director.As the tagline goes “The law has its limits.He does not.”
#The film is currently showing in Singapore and slated for released in India early January 2013.