Calling Jack Reacher the contemporary equivalent of those B star thrillers directors like Don Siegel used to churn out in the 1960s and 1970s might be stretching the point. It's fairly obvious there's some calculation at work here, both from star and producer Tom Cruise and from backers Paramount, as to its self-evident franchise potential. After all, the former military policeman dispensing justice in his own way created by crime novelist Lee Child has become a franchise of its own a while ago. And though much has been made of Mr. Cruise's physical misfit with the character (who is physically much more imposing on the books than the star is), the truth is actor and part are a perfect fit. Outside his usual comfort zone of steel-jawed heroes, Mr. Cruise has been a hit-or-miss performer, and his clean cut all-American looks work better as a no-nonsense action hero like in the Mission: Impossible series.

That is exactly what writer and director Christopher McQuarrie (who wrote The Usual Suspects and previously collaborated with the actor in Valkyrie) gives him: a straight-forward action hero with no vulnerabilities to explore, a no-nonsense professional single-minded in his devotion to his work, thrown into an equally no-nonsense whodunit/procedural recapturing the simple pleasures of classic mysteries, in which a former Army sniper may have been framed for a killing spree in downtown Pittsburgh. In that sense, Jack Reacher pretty much refuses the current credo of post-modern, complex action heroes and fast-moving, frantically-edited, jagged thrillers such as the Bourne series. Instead, Mr. McQuarrie, in a surprisingly confident sophomore effort that understands perfectly it is working with time-honoured, specific genre constraints and mechanics, posits the film as heir to those no-nonsense thrillers of the 1970s - at over two hours a bit oversized, it's true, but following many of its precepts; such as surrounding a star placed squarely within its comfort zone with a solid cast of supporting performers (including a surprising villain turn from a perfectly cast Werner Herzog and a casually cool Robert Duvall).

A delightful genre effort, Jack Reacher is the cinematic equivalent of comfort food - hardly the best meal you'll ever have, but genuinely satisfying nonetheless.

Cast: Tom Cruise, Rosamund Pike, Richard Jenkins, Werner Herzog, David Oyelowo, Jai Courtney, Joseph Sikora, Robert Duvall

Director: Christopher McQuarrie
Screenplay: Mr. McQuarrie, from the novel by Lee Child, One Shot
Cinematography: Caleb Deschanel (colour, processing by Efilm/DeLuxe, Panavision widescreen)
Music: Joe Kraemer
Designer: Jim Bissell
Costumes: Susan Matheson
Editor: Kevin Stitt
Producers: Mr. Cruise, Don Granger, Paula Wagner, Gary Levinsohn (Paramount Pictures, Skydance Productions, Tom Cruise Productions)
USA, 2012, 130 minutes

Screened: Distributor advance press screening, Zon Lusomundo Alvaláxia 1 (Lisbon), December 18th 2012


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