(Published in The Sunday Guardian, on December 30, 2012, retrieved from http://www.sunday-guardian.com/masala-art/short-of-the-mark)
Cast: Tom Cruise, Rosamund Pike, Werner Herzog and others
Director: Christopher McQuarrie
Rating: 2.5 stars
Right, so having just played Ethan Hunt, Tom Cruise has taken on another character that will spawn another franchise – Jack Reacher, brainchild of author Lee Child, whose original name is Jim Grant. Apparently, he came up with his character’s name while reaching for something at a supermarket. Facepalm.
And this is how the character is described: “Reacher is 6’5” (1.96m) tall, with a 50-inch chest, and weighing between 210 and 250 pounds (100–115 kg). He has ice-blue eyes and dirty blonde hair. He has very little body fat, and his muscular physique is completely natural.” And he’s played by Tom Cruise. Yes. Let’s all take a moment to rub our eyes, breathe, read again, and guffaw.
However, that doesn’t jar quite so much as the opening scene of the film – a shootout by a gunman in a public plaza, from a nearby car park. The fact that the film releases less than two weeks after the Connecticut school shooting won’t do its marketing team any favours. Worse, we’re shown the goings-on from the gunman’s point of view, so it feels like we’re playing a bloodthirsty video game.
Ironically, the character, who’s something of a modern-day Superman-sans-Kryptonite, is equipped with an accurate body clock that enables him to figure out what time of day it is, and wake up without alarms. He’s also got some instinctive sensor that alerts him to his surroundings at all times. One wishes the filmmakers and distributors had these gifts.
It took me a while to figure out why Jack Reacher, who has no licence, money, or livelihood, sees fit to join an investigation first against, and then in defence of, a former military acquaintance. I suppose it’s one of those films where you have to read the book first. All inclination I could muster to get around to doing that vanished, though, when a Russian character only known as The Zec (Werner Herzog) speaks of his first year in a Siberian prison-camp, and says, “I chewed these fingers off before the frostbite could turn to gangrene.” Umm.
The film is something of a textbook thriller, with enough abandoned places and coincidences to keep us as involved as we can be in something like this. However, the climax tends to drag on, and one wishes the good folks in the film would just pull the trigger and be done with it.
The Verdict: Do you really want to watch a Russia-versus-civilisation film, when even James Bond has got over it?