Last Christmas, Tom Cruise and his IMF team lit the box office on fire with Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol.  Can lighting strike twice for Maverick?  We will soon see, as his latest foray into franchising with author Lee Child’s Jack ReacherHollywood has been looking for the American answer to James Bond for decades, but to no avail.  Lee Child has created a character with a loyal following, and seventeen books currently in his series.  So, if this first film pans out, there are plenty more stories ready for the adapting.

Jack Reacher opens with a “random shooting” that takes the life of five innocent people.  The lead investigator, Emerson (David Oyelowo) has put together an air-tight case against ex-army sniper James Barr (Joseph Sikora).  The DA Alex Rodin (Richard Jenkins) takes the case, and he never loses a capitol case.  Barr writes a message to Get Jack Reacher.  Neither Emerson nor Rodin knows who he is.  They go through a long description of Jack Reacher (Tom Cruise) from his military file as a voiceover as we are introduced to him as he buys a set of clothes from a consignment shop, buys a bus ticket, and arrives in Pittsburgh to look into the shooter.

Before Reacher can meet with Barr, Barr is assaulted on a prison transport and winds up in a coma.  Helen Rodin (Rosamund Pike), Barr’s lawyer, shows up, and ends up hiring Reacher to look into the case.  The catch is Reacher believes Barr is guilty as the day is long.  As he digs, however, he begins to have his doubts.  Things are too neat and tidy in the investigation.  And there is the small fact that someone has put a hit out on Reacher for snooping around.

The script is based on Lee Child’s book One Shot, which is the ninth book in the series, which I find as an odd choice for a starting point.  Yet, it works.  The quick description given by Emerson and Rodin gives you all the backstory necessary for this story.  Christopher McQuarrie adapted the book, and directed.   McQuarrie’s script is solid and full of great snappy dialog.  His direction is tight in the action scenes, but a bit loose in other parts.  Some scenes seem a bit too long, as he is trying to build suspense.  A little trimming here and there, and Jack Reacher could easily be a 120 minutes instead of 130 minutes.

Despite the description of Jack Reacher, on the fictional character’s Wikipedia page, being a guy that is 6’5” with a 50” chest and weighing over 210 pounds and having dirty blond hair, I think Tom Cruise works.  He got the aloofness and physicality required for the role.  I know that Cruise’s casting has been the main point of scrutiny by fans of the books, but Lee Child himself has defended it.  So, I am on board with it. 

The rest of the cast all turn in decent performances.  Robert Duvall is excellent in his cameo late in the film.  Werner Herzog plays a tremendously creepy bad guy with a horrific past.  There are plenty of Academy Award nominations and winners throughout the cast and crew, and it is pleasant to see them all come together to make an enjoyable film.  Jack Reacher is worth your time and money, but I don’t really see it taking off as the next big franchise.  It may suffer a bit due to the recent shooting in Newtown, but the Paramount postponed the premier indefinitely in respect for the families affected.

RATING: 7.5/10



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