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When Army Major Susan Turner (Cobie Smulders) is framed for treason, Jack Reacher (Tom Cruise) discovers she’s the target of a massive government conspiracy. With help from Turner and a mysterious new ally, Reacher risks everything to take down a powerful organization that will stop at nothing to protect its secrets. (From Paramount’s official synopsis)

 Jack Reacher: Never Go Back
As the rare internet ‘critic’ that wasn’t particularly taken with Christopher McQuarrie’s categorically adequate and generically-titled Jack Reacher, I approached Edward Zwick’s sequel, Jack Reacher: Never Go Back, with utter apathy. I had the right idea. The second chapter takes that established adequacy and downgrades it to mediocrity without stooping so low as to be actively bad, which is a bummer, because actively bad movies are usually easier to write about. The banality begins with Zwick, Richard Wenk, and Marshall Herskovitz’ screenplay – based on Lee Child’s Never Go Back (the 18th book in the Jack Reacher series). To the film’s credit, the plot moves pretty quickly and assumes an audience can keep up with its many twists and mysteries. Unfortunately, the audience can keep up so easily, because they’ve seen other political thrillers. The players, including the title character, are oddly humourless, despite the established comedic talents of the cast members. There’s even considerable chemistry between Cruise and Smulders, but the film is hellbent on pushing levity aside. The actual laughs usually relate to how badly the filmmakers miscalculated with this overly serious tone. The characters are determined to grit their teeth and argue their way through every single conversion, culminating in a sequence where two characters ask each other twelve mostly rhetorical questions in 1:08 (I counted/timed it).

The most interesting thing about the production is that Edward Zwick, of all people, toke up directing duties. Given his ‘prestige action’ pedigree, Zwick seemed like an almost comical upgrade over McQuarrie, who, at the time of the first Jack Reacher, was known almost exclusively as a writer (he had only directed the underseen crime comedy Way of the Gun, 2000). Since then he made the sublimely directed Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation (2015), but he certainly worked out the kinks on Jack Reacher. This franchise really feels like it is meant for filmmakers in search of a stepping stone – not an awards darling like Zwick (nominations, mostly, but still...). Assuming he’s capable of directing this kind of movie in his sleep, his efforts here are quite competent. He makes good use of the moderate budget (moderate for a star-driven studio picture) and neatly establishes geography during the action sequences – though, as often happens with these kinds of movies, the mayhem is hampered by the PG-13 rating. He also appears to understand this series’ throwback potential and shoots it to match something from the middle-’90s, like Phillip Noyce’s Patriot Games (1992) or Andrew Davis’ The Fugitive (1993).

 Jack Reacher: Never Go Back

Video


Despite having an IMAX release alongside its standard theater run, Jack Reacher: Never Go Back was apparently shot using 35mm film and is presented here in 2.35:1, 1080p video. The transfer is as sharp and clean as you’d expect from a modern studio movie, limited only by the way cinematographer Oliver Wood uses shallow focus and diffused back-lighting. The film grain hasn’t been smoothed over with post-production grading, but also isn’t particularly prevalent, unless Zwick and Wood are pressing the fogginess of certain scenes (specifically war flashbacks). With that in mind, these scenes are actually the most impressive, because the gradations are pretty delicate and the grain itself doesn’t appear too noisy. The movie is also full of hard edges, especially during the high contrast/hard light daylight sequences. For the most part, the separation is tight and I assume the crush is intended, but there are some minor halo effects. Colour quality is generally muted and cooled, in both bright light and heavy darkness, which is sort of boring, but consistent. There are exceptions, though, such as the exceptionally eclectic Halloween parade climax and the pseudo-neon glow of additional nighttime action sequences.

Audio


Jack Reacher: Never Go Back is presented in Dolby Atmos sound with a Dolby TrueHD 7.1 core. The film’s purposefully lo-fi action credentials don’t exactly make it the best contender for a state-of-the-art, up/down/left/right mix, but the sound designers do their best to fill out the channels without betraying the ‘feel’ of this production. Highlights obviously include all of the shoot-outs, fist-fights, and car chases, but the best use of dynamic range and directional spreads is a plane ride sequence at the center of the movie, in which every minor rustle of the takeoff frightens Reachers’ maybe-daughter (who has never flown) and the crowd-noise/fireworks from the aforementioned parade. Henry Jackman composed the film's score (this is the first Zwick movie since Blood Diamond not scored by James Newton Howard), who takes a workman-like approach to the material (I would discuss him reusing cues from Joe Kraemer’s original Jack Reacher score, but I can’t remember any of them). The music fits neatly into the stereo/surround channels without overwhelming dialogue, even during the big, brassy chase scenes.

 Jack Reacher: Never Go Back

Extras


  • Reacher Returns (11:31, HD) – The cast, crew, and author Lee Child discuss the franchise and the Jack Reacher character.
  • An Unexpected Family (14:31, HD) – The filmmakers talk further about Reacher and what Never Go Back did to develop the character.
  • Relentless: On Location in Louisiana (25:46, HD) – An extensive look at the process of shooting in Louisiana.
  • Take Your Revenge First: Lethal Combat (12:42, HD) – Concerning stunt and fight choreography.
  • No Quarter Given: Rooftop Battle (8:13, HD) – A breakdown of the film’s final showdown.
  • Reacher in Focus with Tom Cruise and Photographer David James (8:33, HD) – The on-set photographer and star talk about the art of behind-the-scenes stills.


 Jack Reacher: Never Go Back

Overall


I suppose that if I had liked the original Jack Reacher more, I would be disappointed with Never Go Back, but I’m afraid my expectations were already quite low. At best, this is an inoffensively bland movie, worthy of watching on an airplane, along with Gavin O’Connor’s The Accountant and Paul Greengrass’ Jason Bourne. Paramount has put a lot of effort into this Blu-ray presentation, though, including a tight 1080p transfer that maintains the 35mm film quality and a dynamic Dolby Atmos soundtrack. The extras are surprisingly comprehensive, too, especially for a movie of this type.

 Jack Reacher: Never Go Back

 Jack Reacher: Never Go Back

 Jack Reacher: Never Go Back
* Note: The above images are taken from the Blu-ray and resized for the page. Full-resolution captures are available by clicking individual images, but due to .jpg compression they are not necessarily representative of the quality of the transfer.


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