Starring: Tom Cruise, Cobie Smulders, Aldis Hodge
Genre: Action/ Thriller
When returning to his former military base, Jack Reacher (Cruise) discovers that an ally of his, Major Susan Turner (Smulders) has been arrested for espionage. Suspecting foul play, Reacher embarks on a potentially deadly mission to uncover the truth, expose the corruption in the US army and clear Turner’s name, while a revelation from his past also threatens to change his life forever.
When watching the second cinematic instalment of the Jack Reacher saga, at the very beginning of the film some of the first words to appear on-screen are ‘A Tom Cruise Production’. Well that pretty much tells us all we need to know and essentially confirms what most people will expect; this is very much a Tom Cruise vanity project.
The first, most important and most glaringly obvious thing to say about Jack Reacher: Never Go Back is that if you do not like Tom Cruise, you will not like this film! The fact that this is very much a Tom Cruise passion project does prove to be both a good and back thing as Tom is his usual charismatic and infinitely watchable self, and it is obvious that he does deliver full commitment to the screen adaptation of the character of Jack Reacher that he is trying to depict.
Cruise’s commitment and passion to the cinematic depiction of Jack Reacher (despite the obvious physical differences from the character in the books) is very much evident throughout the film. In this day and age of actors just turning up to go through the motions and earn the huge amounts of money, it is at least refreshing to see the likes of Tom Cruise having obvious passion and therefore not only putting in some genuine effort in their performances but also enjoying themselves. Actors are of course by nature very arrogant and therefore quite complacent beasts, and often forget that the audience can tell if they are playing a role just for the money, as they often aren’t good enough actors to disguise that fact (Bruce Willis, John Cusack, Nic Cage – the list is endless!). However, it does often feel that the character of Jack Reacher is a walking and talking cinematic cliché due to his characteristics, how he is described by other characters and some of the outrageously cheesy lines that Cruise comes out with. This does often make Jack Reacher: Never Go Back unintentionally funny.
The problem is that Jack Reacher: Never go Back is not a good enough film in terms of its narrative structure to be any more than enjoyable, but highly vacuous entertainment. There is of course the possibility that this is because its main star is also in charge, but the pacing is all over the place; during the first third it is almost impossible to keep up with what is going in as we are quickly introduced to an abundance of characters and way too much random, and unconnected exposition. All the way the key question is; why do we the audience care?
Well, this question is never answered and the narrative’s overall plot is very generic, slightly boring and relies way too heavily on convenience and contrivance. There is the occasional set piece that is certainly solidly put together by director Edward Zwick, but these set pieces sometimes feel unjustified. However, holding it all together is enough self-aware humour and the solid performances from Cruise and Cobie Smulders.
Also, adding a key element to the narrative is Danika Yorash, as a girl that may be Reacher’s daughter. This does prove to be key positive element in improving the engagement of the film, as it means that the character who famously has nothing to lose and no one can ever have any leverage on, may do this time.
Once the plot settles down and we finally figure out who is who, Jack Reacher: Never go Back gets better and seemingly more assured as it goes along and emerges as good fun, even if the actual supposed main plot never ever gets explained and is resolved very quickly. However, the film’s main finale hinges on a rivalry between Reacher and another former army man, and this brings about (albeit through total narrative contrivance) a well-staged and genuinely thrilling finale set during the New Orleans Halloween carnival.
Jack Reacher: Never go Back certainly has its flaws, but is at least enjoyable fun, and Cruise is on predictably good form. Maybe less protagonist cliché and more focus on coherent plot next time please producer Tom!
Despite being a predominantly narrative mess and riddled with cliché, Jack Reacher: Never Go Back is enjoyable, but forgettable fun thanks to a committed leading performance and some decent set pieces.