“There are four types of people who join the military. For some, it’s a family trade. Others are patriots, eager to serve. Next, you have those who just need a job. Than there’s the kind who want a legal means of killing other people.” – Tom Cruise as “Jack Reacher”
It is a sunny day in Pittsburgh. Outside the big baseball stadium people are walking, and having a good time when suddenly people start dying. Five people are shot by a sniper in a garage. He makes a clean get-away but leaves plenty of evidence behind.
Detective “Emerson” (Oyelowo) quickly uses that evidence to determine the shooter to be “James Barr” (Sikora), a former Army sniper. He won’t talk but when being questioned by Emerson with the District Attorney, “Alex Rodin” (Jenkins), he writes “Get Jack Reacher” on a piece of paper.
Emerson is unable to get anything on “Reacher” (Cruise), who seems to have vanished since he left the Army where he was a crack investigator. He was also a troublemaker who got busted from Major to Captain and managed to earn the higher rank back before leaving the service. Wanting to locate him and unable to do so, Emerson and Rodin are shocked when Reacher walks into Rodin’s office. Soon he’s looking at Barr, who was beaten into a coma while being transported to jail. There he encounters “Helen Rodin” (Pike) who is Barr’s lawyer and the daughter of the DA.
Reacher isn’t there to clear Barr. He’s there to make sure he’s convicted because of an incident in his past that Reacher investigated. But as he digs into the case at Rodin’s request, things don’t add up. Suddenly it appears someone wants him out of the way. They want it badly enough to do almost anything. Something is rotten in Pittsburgh, and Jack Reacher intends to find what it is.
McQuarrie is a superior writer (The Usual Suspects) and he began the process with an excellent novel by Childs. “One Shot” is the 9th Jack Reacher novel and an excellent read. The changes he made in adapting the novel make it a better screen story.
One of the problems is that die-hard fans of the Reacher novels will not like the casting of Tom Cruise. Reacher is a 6’5” 250 lb bruiser and Cruise just doesn’t fit the role physically. But those who don’t know the books won’t care. Cruise delivers a strong performance.
Cinematographer Caleb Deschanel makes this a very pleasing film visually and the action sequences are excellent. Particularly good is a car chase scene reminiscent of 1970s era cop thrillers. There are excellent villains portrayed by filmmaker Werner Herzog and Jai Courtney, and Robert Duvall (who co-starred once before with Cruise in Days of Thunder) is perfectly cast as a retired Marine (no such thing as a former Marine) who owns a gun range and provides critical evidence and support to Reacher.
This is a Cruise “vanity” piece and that’s okay when the actor gives the audience a great experience. He’s done so here. The technical flaws won’t be noticed by the majority of viewers but in the interest of pedantry I’ll mention them anyway:
The “legend” of Reacher is flawed. He was a commissioned officer, and they don’t investigate crimes in the Army. The Army’s Criminal Investigations Division does that and their special agents are Warrant Officers or enlisted, as far as military personnel are concerned. Worse yet is that Reacher is a male “Mary-Sue”. He’s superbly skilled with weapons or in hand-to-hand combat, has a photographic memory, appears to speak multiple languages and always has just the right line for any situation. He’s too good to be real and that does hurt a bit.
However, all of that is totally forgivable in the end. Jack Reacher is a great popcorn flick and you will almost certainly enjoy it if that’s your thing.