Tom Cruise's take on Army military police officer Jack Reacher hits the big silver screen this weekend. The action flick, based on One Shot, a 2005 novel by Lee Child, is directed by Christopher McQuarrie, known for his work on The Usual Suspects. Below are five non-spoilery facts to arm yourself with before you visit the theater.
This may seem like an odd place to start, but Tom Cruise's height threatened to derail this film early on. Jack Reacher's fans are a vocal bunch, and in the book series, the hero is described as a 6'5" blonde-haired, stocky man. Cruise finds it hard to pass for 5'7". However, this isn't Cruise's first action role, and he makes up for his small stature with a strong performance. That said, because Cruise has played so many tough guys over the years, it's easy to lose his performance among the many other heros he has portrayed.
Heroes with rough edges aren't exactly known for being multi-dimensional characters, so Hollywood has resorted to merely exaggerating a few signature moves. You've seen them all before: the calm before the beat down, the always-serious disposition, the cold stare. All of these are included in McQuarrie's film, and Cruise plays his character like a mix between Clint Eastwood's Man with No Name and Mark Harmon's Leroy Jethro Gibbs. The character works, but don't be surprised to find yourself rolling your eyes a few times.
Just as the hero remains the same, so does the damsel in distress. All good action films have one. Thankfully, in JR, we at least forego an ill-advised love affair between Cruise and Rosamund Pike's Helen Rodin. Unfortunately, Pike's character is inhibited from showing any depth or purpose outside of the main plot. She does the best she can with what little she's given, but at some points it's obvious that even Pike wishes that her character wasn't so helpless. Worry not, those points are inconsequential and do little to hurt the movie.
The movie runs 130 minutes, but after jumping into the plot rather quickly with five executions, things slow down. The audience is allowed to see the damage that results from the loss of the five lives, which is unusual for this genre; violence and death are usually meted out with little afterthought. The look at the victims' families serves a purpose, but after awhile, you begin counting down until the violence returns. That's why we watch action flicks, right? Leave grief and mourning for the dramas.
Action flicks aren't meant to have good plots. Following scenes that identify the bad guy, the good guy does good guy things, the damsel shows off her body or reveals her lack of good sense, then things tend to go downhill. Unfortunately, in the midst of that familiar formula, the bad guy's motivation needs to be justified. The justification rarely makes sense, and it won't in this movie. Instead of focusing on the plot, enjoy Jack Reacher for what it is: a sleek, fun look at a handsome hero hurting villains.
Not into action movies? You may want to check out The Hobbit this weekend.