There’s been so much talk of Cruise not being tall enough to fulfil the role of Lee Child’s man mountain creation Reacher, that many have lost sight of the fact that he’s an incredibly versatile, dramatic action actor.
It’s no wonder Lee Child gave his seal of approval. Plus if we’re going to talk physical appearance – other than height – Cruise fits the bill. As well as being incredibly ripped (there’s a shirt off scene to prove it) he gets Reacher’s movement spot on. A hulking presence, hands loose, ready to fight – but able to talk his way out of situations if needed.
Cruise also brings an intensity and intelligence to Reacher, perhaps drawing on his ruthless hitman character from Collateral. Dialogue on Reacher’s part is kept sparse and concise, so you’ll be disappointed if you think you’re paying to see a breakneck action film with the dial ramped up to 110%. Mission Impossible this ain’t and that’s no bad thing.
One director, one shot
This largely due to Writer/Director Christopher McQuarrie, whose past work includes The Usual Suspects, The Way of the Gun and Valkyrie. He’s also written the screenplay for forthcoming films The Wolverine and All You Need Is Kill, the latter starring Cruise.
McQuarrie’s films are intelligent and well scripted, often with great set pieces. His gun battles put you in mind of Michael Mann’s Heat in some respects. He’s primarily a writer, but his last directorial effort, The Way of the Gun starring Benicio Del Toro and Ryan Phillippe, was highly underrated. If you missed it, here’s the hilarious opening scene – not for kids!
And so, back to the film. In terms of cast Cruise is amply – ahem – supported by Rosamund Pike’s lawyer, Helen, who mainly gets to react to most situations with wide-eyed surprise and a heaving busom. Sixty years ago that part would’ve gone to Marilyn Monroe! Perhaps I’m being unfair, Pike does well with what she has, but ultimately this is Cruise’s movie. That said, there’s a great addition of Robert Duvall in the third act. Bigger than a cameo and helps the plot along.
In terms of bad guys, McQuarrie’s choice of villain, Werner Herzog as shadowy gulag survivor The Zec, was an inspired one, if a tad underwritten. He has a suitably creepy introduction but goes a little downhill from there – his motivation for evil deeds perhaps not coming across as well as it could have done.
All in all though, McQuarrie and Cruise have confidently created a potential new action franchise. Reacher, a throwback to characters from 70s and 80s films, could perhaps be a breath of fresh air if done in a modern way. On the strength of this film, my guess is don’t be surprised if we see a sequel in the next few years. If McQuarrie stays on board – or a similar type of Director – then we’d be in for a treat.