At the Movies with Alan Gekko: Jack Reacher “2012”

MPAA Rating: PG-13/ Genre: Action-Thriller/Stars: Tom Cruise, Rosamund Pike, Richard Jenkins, Werner Herzog, David Oyelowo, Jai Courtney, Joseph Sikora, Robert Duvall, Michael Raymond-James, Josh Helman, Alexia Fast, James Martin Kelly, Nicole Forester/ Runtime: 130 minutes

Now on the surface I can definitely see how it would appear that Jack Reacher looks like nothing more than a simple, two-word title story of a kinda-sorta enigma of a protagonist investigating a horrendous crime and getting a little bit rough and rowdy as he investigates further and further. Yet I kid you not dear reader behind the simplistic plot and even more simplistic title there can be found an immersive and phenomenally well-made film of the variety that just isn’t made that much anymore. By that I mean this is one that is both stylish yet intelligent, riveting on both a mental and entertaining level, and is a film that absolutely does not wish to fulfill too much in the manner of conventionality and as such trades the typical way to make a “blockbuster movie” for a method of execution that is more focused on the film’s substance instead of just how entertaining it is on a basic level thus raising the entertainment factor quite a bit. Indeed, if nothing else this is a brilliant thinking action film, one where the action is beautifully done but it supports rather than overrides the immersive narrative that is pieced together courtesy of a genuine and well-thought out plot of both who and why did it that feels fresh and intriguing rather than typical and run of the mill. Suffice it to say then that this is one film adaptation that managed to surprise even me dear reader and yes its follow-up may have been to some extent a bust I still hope we get to see more adaptations of this character and his adventures in the years to come.

The plot is as follows: Jack Reacher’s riveting story begins as we horrifically find ourselves operating as reluctant witnesses to a quintet of random people being mercilessly and skillfully gunned down by far-off sniper fire on the North Shore in the city of Pittsburgh. By skillfully I mean that these 5 individuals were gunned down by professional shooting over a long distance and executed by a trained marksman utilizing both an M1A rifle and precise and capable of being self-loaded ammo. However when a Pittsburgh cop by the name of Emerson manages to locate a quarter from a parking meter near where the shootings occurred and it has a viable print on it, he feels that he has located the shooter. Sure enough, we soon see the police manage to round up a suspect in the form of a war vet by the name of James Barr who not only has the training to pull this off, but also the rife. Making things seem even more open and shut is the fact that Barr literally all but confesses to both Emerson and Pittsburgh D.A. Alex Rodin. Yet things start to get odd when, instead of just signing the confession in front of him, Barr requests a man by the name of Jack Reacher. Reacher, we along with Emerson and Rodin soon learn, is a man who was once a highly decorated soldier and a renowned military detective, but who here lately has been off the grid and so is seen and regarded by many as something of a vengeful apparition. Yet, and quite astonishingly, Emerson and Rodin don’t even need to try to find him since it isn’t long thereafter that Reacher seemingly pops up out of nowhere and meets the two men as well as Barr’s lawyer, and Rodin’s daughter, Helen. Yet despite being confused why Barr would even ask for him for reasons I shan’t spoil here, we soon see Reacher and Helen decide to work together in the form of him trying to find who is responsible for setting Barr up and her looking to see if there is any connection, however slim, amongst the victims. Yet as their investigation moves forward and the further down the rabbit hole they go, it isn’t long before Reacher and Helen discover that they have managed to uncover a vast web of corruption, murder, and deceit with ties and motives that extend well beyond setting up a military sniper to execute 5 seemingly random and unimportant people…..

Now this film’s command of filmmaking as a medium as well as an immersive comprehension for how to make things dramatic in the most subtle way possible are best exemplified courtesy of the film’s opening and then manages to work its way all the way to the end of the film. Indeed the dialogue-omitted opening to this film when combined with opening shots that in equal parts specific, intriguing, and riveting all do a wonderful job of both getting your attention right off the bat whilst also conjuring up more emotion and drama than a lesser-crafted opening that chooses to go with energy and drama that feels created and inorganic in every way possible. Also of note is the fact that this film’s opening also does a wonderful job at setting the stage for a riveting film where we see various truths revealed in a manner that is wonderfully paced. Indeed, as seen in the film, a single truth conjures up another, another truth creates more questions, a question might conjure up an action beat, and so it goes till we get to the end of the film. Indeed this is a narrative which is molded by a distinct style that both will keep you guessing, but also make sure you are neither ahead or behind the main character in figuring everything out. Thus it’s not that scribe/ film helmer Christopher McQuarrie makes you, the movie goer an active participant in everything going on, but rather that the narrative is unwrapped in such a manner that everything stays on an even keel both in front of and behind the camera and as a result both are exactly at the same place in the story as the other.

Now the opening for this movie also does do a wonderful job of seeing up the dynamics for what will go down in the rest of this film. Dynamics, I should also add, that in a lesser movie would be seen as decent for how things are either resolved or revealed in the climax of the film, but that in this one manage to function merely as how the narrative begins rather than how it ends. Thus as the narrative moves along, we see that the intrigue contained therein begins to increase and the action slowly rises to the point that we get several well-done action beats that, much like the opening to the film, acquire a more reserved approach, though with lack of music rather than with spoken word, that also manages to increase both these moments’ levels of anticipation and effectiveness instead of just simply lowering them. Indeed be it a bout of fisticuffs between Reacher and a pair of thugs, a car chase that honestly rivals the ones seen in Drive from 2011 or Ronin in 1998, or a shootout that thrillingly puts you, the movie goer in the middle of the action, all these moments do a wonderful job of acting as showcases for just how effective realism can be in movies in the Action genre of filmmaking. Indeed suffice it to say then that Jack Reacher does a wonderful job of riveting you to the edge of your seat with how phenomenally well executed its action beats are and they really do serve as a brilliant complement to both the thrilling narrative and the unraveling of the mystery at the heart of said narrative.

Now this film’s terrific mix of an intriguing narrative and wonderful work by the various technical departments are supported beautifully by a phenomenal lead performance provided courtesy of Tom Cruise. Indeed he may not be Jack Reacher on the outside, at least when taking into account the description we are given in the books, but Cruise does manage to play who Reacher is on the inside phenomenally well with an astounding level of physicality and intelligence to boot. Indeed Cruise manages to make both the quips and the by-the-seat-of-pants spontaneous thinking feel organic and as such come to define this guy even more than the physical skirmishes and the gunplay he finds himself involved in. To that end, it should be noted that Reacher is vastly different than that other famous character Cruise is known for playing, one Ethan Hunt. Indeed this is because Reacher is less of a superhero and just more of a versatile and well-rounded person who is blessed with incredible amounts of physicality, insightfulness, deductive ability, and spur-of-the-moment thinking. Indeed by doing so, it really aids the film in making the titular character more approachable and film helmer Christopher McQuarrie has managed to do wonderful work in constructing this movie around Reacher’s strengths instead of just turning him into some kind of superhuman which would only result in the film’s thrills feeling cheap and the riveting narrative feeling neutered in some ways. Indeed although the series of Mission: Impossible movies in quite a few ways are more what you might expect from Hollywood, this film is one which is striving to be as realistic and low-key as possible and the fact that it’s lead character manages to insert himself perfectly in that strived goal of realism and subtleness makes this a true treat to behold.

All in all I know what you’re thinking movie lover and I just want you to know that I completely agree with you: Jack Reacher really doesn’t seem, when taking it in from a distance or whilst just skimming through titles in the 5 dollar bin at Wal Mart or through what is available to stream on your streaming service of choice, really give off a vibe or look like this is a film that is actually worthy of praise especially from this reviewer. Yet I can honestly say that, having watched it several times, that this is an actually quite well-made and developed movie in nearly every respect possible. Indeed the source material that is the inspiration for this film is genuinely riveting and also provides the movie with a narrative that never succumbs to being either rote or routine and instead actually manages to keep you, and the characters contained within, guessing and trying to figure everything out in equal measure. Not only that, but this is one film which is structured incredibly well with the lack of any kind of score during moments of pure action only adding to the potency and how realistic they are rather than detracting in any fashion. That and when you add in a truly terrific lead performance from Running Man Monthly’s Man of the Year Tom Cruise and wonderful turns from a truly game support cast then what you have dear reader really truly is one of the finest surprise films from the latter half of the far gone year that is 2012. On a scale of 1-5 I give Jack Reacher “2012” a solid 3.5 out of 5.