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Feature


Six shots. Five dead. One heartland city thrown into a state of terror. But within hours the cops have it solved: a slam-dunk case. Except for one thing. The accused man says: You got the wrong guy. Then he says: Get Reacher for me. And sure enough, ex-military investigator Jack Reacher (Tom Cruise) is coming. He knows this shooter-a trained military sniper who never should have missed a shot. Reacher is certain something is not right-and soon the slam-dunk case explodes. Now Reacher is teamed with a beautiful young defense lawyer named Helen (Rosamund Pike), moving closer to the unseen enemy who is pulling the strings. Reacher knows that no two opponents are created equal. This one has come to the heartland from his own kind of hell. And Reacher knows that the only way to take him down is to match his ruthlessness and cunning-and then beat him shot for shot. (From Paramount’s original synopsis; the errors are their own)

Jack Reacher
I now understand that Jack Reacher is based on Lee Child’s incredibly popular political thriller/crime novel One Shot, the ninth in a series of books celebrating the exploits of former Army Military Police officer, Jack Reacher (hence the title). But I’d like to think I could be forgiven for assuming the worst when the film was first announced. Ignorant of Child’s work, I approached Jack Reacher with heavy trepidation. I’m not concerned with Cruise’s private life, which has no bearing on his prowess as a performer, I’m concerned with the generic qualities of the movies he produces for himself. Following a near meltdown of his public persona, Tom Cruise has been rebuilding his superstardom with suspiciously interchangeable action franchises, each built around suspiciously interchangeable central characters. With the Mission Impossible series successfully resurrected via Brad Bird’s outstanding Ghost Protocol (a film that smartly pushed Cruise’s character into a supportive role), movies like Knight and Day and Jack Reacher appear moot and regressive. Having now seen the film, I can verify that Jack Reacher is a homologous, mostly non-descript, PG-13 action flick and that the title character is a grumpy variation of Mission Impossible’s Ethan Hunt. However, producer/actor Cruise and writer/director Christopher McQuarrie know how to exploit the property to something near its fullest potential. It’s not going to be easy to remember the movie into next week (I can’t imagine too many people rushing out to own a copy for its re-watch value), but, as a quick chunk of homogenized film entertainment, it mostly works.

McQuarrie is relatively untried as a feature director, having made only one movie before Jack Reacher – another mostly generic, yet charming, interchangeable crime thriller called Way of the Gun. He’s more famous for his screenplays, specifically his work with Bryan Singer, including Public Access, The Usual Suspects (which won him an Oscar), Valkyrie, and Jack the Giant Slayer. Way of the Gun has enough of a cult following that I’m surprised he hasn’t been set in the director’s chair on more occasions. His direction here is a fine, cool blend of simple momentum and crisp compositions that serves the plain product. He also clearly has a comfort zone and is perfectly willing to tailor his choice of adaptation and script to suit it – Jack Reacher’s shoot-out climax is very similar to the shoot-out climax of Way of the Gun, minus some of the comedy and harder-R violence, and plus a little more high-tech firepower. He appears to be having the most fun when depicting unglamorous violence, specifically a sequence where two clumsy hoods try to attack Cruise in a small bathroom and manage to miss all but a single blow, but the ‘family friendly’ rating continues to hold him back from the point of bliss. What’s especially strange is that so much of this film, from the concept to cinematography and Joe Kraemer’s James Horner-ish score, feels like it was born out of the 1990s, not the 2010s. This includes the acting styles, the curt sense of humour, and the unearned bouts of emotional button-pushing, but mostly refers to the basic subject matter and its pointless PG-13 rating. The ‘90s-ness feels a bit off, but does keep McQuarrie from over-cutting his action and depending too much on shaky camera techniques.

Jack Reacher
The cast is made up of well-meaning famous faces, but no one but Cruise, who the script was written to specifically appease, is prepared to deal with the exposition-heavy dialogue. No one is specifically bad, but we’ve seen much better from the likes of Rosamund Pike (who has zero chemistry with Cruise), David Oyelowo, Richard Jenkins, and especially Robert Duvall. McQuarrie’s big coup is casting Werner Herzog as the film’s highest-level villain. Herzog has been cast for his wonderful voice on several occasions and appeared as an actor in other peoples’ movies, but he’s not known as an actor. His character is a spoof of a supervillain who only speaks in pseudo-poetic anecdotes that would not be out of place as voice-over on one of his documentaries. What’s particularly adorable here is that Herzog sort of sought out the role. Assuming Cruise and McQuarrie have captured the character Child wrote (apparently Cruise has little in common physically with the Jack Reacher described in the books), Reacher is presented as a small part of a bigger tapestry – less of a central character and more of a reactive force. The less we know about the character personally, the better the film works (sort of like any film adaptation of Donald E. Westlake’s Parker). There’s no question that, at 130 minutes, Jack Reacher is an overlong movie and the time spent filling in the title character’s personality is the most obvious candidate for deletion.

Jack Reacher

Video


Jack Reacher was shot on 35mm and is presented here in 1080p and a 2.35:1 aspect ratio. McQuarrie and cinematographer Caleb Deschanel avoid the grimy, high contrast imagery of Way of the Gun in favour of a relatively natural and smooth look. The sharpest details are broken down mostly between the extreme close-ups of various crime scene evidence and less extreme facial close-ups set against relatively soft backgrounds. In both cases things are plenty sharp and plenty complex. The colour palette rarely stands out as particularly stylized, but is pretty eclectic throughout the film’s various locations. The daylight sequences are a bit on the yellow/orange side, as if the city is trapped in a place of constant sunrise/sunset. Lighter interiors are de-saturated, featuring a blue base that is tinged by fluorescent whites, but not usually at the risk of warmer hues, like skin tones. The darkest sequences feature a mix of warm and cool images set against deep pools of black. These darker scenes are the most impressive in terms of colour quality, because the more vibrant hues are so poppy and crisply separated. The shadows are mostly made up of strong, thick blacks (some of which are infiltrated by blues and purples on occasion), but the contrast levels don’t usually equate particularly hard edges. The whole film is swimming in surprisingly clean, bandless blends that recall the look of digital photography. There is enough grain to verify the 35mm source, but no major noise issues outside of some minor pixel vibrations on some of the richest reds. There are some minor blooming and haloing effects throughout the transfer as well.

Jack Reacher

Audio


This DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 soundtrack gets off to a super-strong start with the film’s opening sequence. This depicts the cold and relatively silent murder of random civilians via a high-powered sniper rifle. The crack of the gunfire pierces the calm silence and echoes softly into the rear channels as the soft sound of panic rises from the site of the violence, hundreds of yards away. Other highlights include a punchy, bone-crunching, directionally heavy car chase (obviously inspired by Bullitt) and the shoot-em-up climax, which features both dynamic gunplay, LFE-rattling car engines, and the added aural appeal of pounding rain. Joe Kraemer’s music as mentioned, sounds a lot like the big, throbbing string and brass blends that defined political thrillers throughout the ‘90s. The sound design is such that the music stands in place of ambient sound much of the time, especially during the various ‘fact-checking’ montages. I found the music a bit intrusive and overbearing during some of the dialogue, but can’t deny that it sounds rich and full on this track, nor did I miss the natural ambience it sat in place of.

Jack Reacher

Extras


The extras begin with two commentary tracks. The first track features McQuarrie and Cruise, who do a decent job recording a sort of ‘brass tacks’ commentary. The tone is a bit dry and businesslike, but generally cast & crew praising isn’t the default discussion as much as it’s the filler between genuinely interesting pieces of technical discussion. As the film’s writer and director, McQuarrie more or less leads the discussion of the more vital information (the editing process, the specifics of camera types/placement, character development, etc), while Cruise acts as something of a moderator, both ‘interviewing’ McQuarrie and acting as a (usually unneeded) technical interpreter. The second track features composer Joe Kraemer working solo and is, not surprisingly, much lighter on information, because he only speaks when his music is not playing a vital part in the action. It’s definitely not a track for everyone, but those who enjoyed the score have a chance to listen to most of the music as an isolated, 2.0 track and those that speak the language of music will definitely learn something from Kraemer’s classroom lecture speaking style.

Up next is When the Man Comes Around (26:50, HD), a general behind-the-scenes featurette/EPK that quickly tracks the making of the film from the original book One Shot, casting (noting Cruise is much shorter than the character described in the books), budgeting, shooting two units, adaptation, and filming the climatic shootout. You Do Not Mess with Jack Reacher: Combat & Weapons (10:30, HD) covers the film’s action style, stunts, and specific fighting method (the same one used for Batman in Chris Nolan’s movies). The Reacher Phenomenon (11:10, HD) closes things out with a look at the Jack Reacher books. Interview subjects throughout the featurettes include Cruise, McQuarrie, producer Don Granger, author Lee Child, stunt coordinator/2nd unit director Paul Jennings, stunt coordinator Robert Alanzo, and cast members Rosamund Pike, Richard Jenkins, David Ouyelowo, and Werner Herzog.

Jack Reacher

Overall


Jack Reacher is more or less the movie I was expecting based on the ad campaign, but it works just fine as basic entertainment, for whatever that is worth. Awkward dialogue and languishing run-time aside, the story makes sense, Cruise is good in the title role and writer/director Christopher McQuarrie keeps things visually sharp and simple. This Blu-ray image quality is sharp and clean, the music-heavy DTS-HD MA sound is rich, and the extras fill out all pertinent behind-the-scenes factoids.

* Note: The images on this page are not representative of the Blu-ray image quality.


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