What we once would have called an existential hero, Reacher served admirably in Iraq as an M.P. but has since fallen off the map by choice. In one scene he directly and somewhat regretfully asks the defense attorney to look from her windows into the Pittsburgh offices across the street and explain to him exactly what “freedom” it is that he fought and killed for. The question hangs in the air, unanswered and unanswerable.
But Reacher becomes intrigued when James Barr, the ex-Army sniper arrested for the crime asks for him. Reacher can’t explain it because he’d like to see Barr dead—until Reacher realizes Barr’s been framed. Jack reluctantly becomes the lead investigator for Helen Rodin, Barr’s lawyer and the daughter of the D.A. with father-daughter issues on full display.
What distinguishes this film from other loner, tough-guy detective stories is the clever dialogue and the comical, bumbling bad guys plus the unique character gracing Lee Child’s Reacher novels, this the 9th of 17. Significantly, he asserts he’s no hero, and the story pauses to give the innocent victims faces, recovers and throws in a quirky car chase with an exceptional conclusion.
Strong characters include Werner Herzog as a cold-blooded, fingerless survivor of a Russian gulag; Robert Duvall as the wary and quick-witted owner of a firing range; Rosamond Pike as the outspoken and gutsy lawyer, and the always-fine Richard Jenkins as her D.A father. But the film’s appeal depends on accepting Tom Cruise as Jack Reacher, 6’5” and 210 pounds in the novels. I did because Cruise has a compelling screen presence. He’s comfortable in his skin, moves well, exudes confidence in Reacher’s superior physical ability, and has impeccable timing.
Director Christopher McQuarrie, who’s worked with Cruise on “Valkyrie” and “Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol,” knows how to make the most of Cruise’s rhythms and strengths. Kevin Stitt’s editing is magnificent; Caleb Deschanel’s cinematography breathtaking. “Jack Reacher” should be invited back for another case. At area cinemas.