Christopher McQuarrie (Writing credits include The Usual Suspects, Valkyrie,
and The Tourist
The law has limits. He does not.
Based on the book ‘One Shot’
(the ninth book of the Jack Reacher series) by Lee Child
Tom Cruise - Reacher
Rosamund Pike - Helen
Richard Jenkins - Rodin
David Oyelowo - Emerson
Werner Herzog - The Zec
Robert Duvall - Cash
Joseph Sikora – Barr
WARNING: FEATURE MAY (AND ACTUALLY DOES) CONTAIN SPOILERS. READ AT YOUR OWN REGRET
"Jack Reacher (Tom Cruise) is a movie about a man who is a ghost. He cannot be searched and he cannot be found. He was called by prime suspect, James Barr, in an apparent senseless shootout of 5 random people in a park.
Apparently, there is a history between Reacher and Barr where they both served in the army in Baghdad. During Barr's station then, he took out 4 Iraqis by sniper tactics out of a sheer but repressed itch to kill somebody. What was later discovered was those Iraqis just ended a spree in a sex-rape den before getting shot.
Barr got away with murder, literally, when the military wanted this to go away quietly and thus hushed it up - but Reacher said, and he made a promise to this man- that if Barr was ever to be apprehended for murder again, or just the slightest whisper of a felony, he'll be back; he'll be there to ensure justice is served upon him.
And now in an ironic turn of events, when Reacher arrives, he gradually unravels the possibility, against his obstinateness, that Barr may be innocent. The reluctant investigator accompanied by Helen (Rosamund Pike), Barr's Defense Attorney, embarks on a dangerous mission to uncover the truth and get to the bottom of this murky mess."
The title of the book was based on the military sniper’s creed: "One shot, one kill.”
Reacher is the ‘ghost’ - he leaves no traces and makes no sound when he arrives. Information and background about him is unknown, hazy at best. And this omnipresent vigilante’s core trait is magnified by sniper connotations and references (which will be further elaborated in later parts).
Similarly, more than meets the eye is Reacher and Barr and the very movie itself. More than just a vigilante hunting down the truth and killers are underlying overarching themes that are skeletal to this film. It douses light on the notion of militarism: how the military rewires a man, and how he is left with his dysfunction in society post-service.
Guns are a motif of military, and gun control and the gun culture in America are prominent issues breached in this film.
These are the movie’s strong lines.
Barr is the anchor that bars down the audience to the undertone of militarism whenever the plot digresses. We are reoriented whenever he reappears intermittently throughout the movie, albeit for split moments, for a glimpse into his past life as a trained militarian and his state of mind. His anxieties, his restraint, his disposition are residues of the traces of militarism that serving the army trickles into a person, and sticks, like a cancerous parasite. A few lines in the movie reiterate that ‘when a person has been training for 2 years everyday, his actions become his habits, his reflexes, the blood in his veins.” That’s exactly the cause – and this theme, albeit conspicuous, was quite strongly and adequately covered.
I felt symbolism was pretty sophisticatedly massaged and infused into the movie. As mentioned at the beginning of this feature, this was an adaptation of a novel called ‘One Shot’ which is one part of the military sniper’s creed. The positions that snipers take – they are in the target’s blind spots. And that characteristic renders the target ‘blinded’ from where it came from. Essentially the sniper is like a ghost, a reflection of Reacher who come and goes without so much as leaving a shadow in his wake.
Sight is indispensable in the skill set of a sharp sniper. They need to hold the target in perfect sight and precise frame at that exact moment for that critical shot. In the movie there were two men, the mastermind villain - The Zec, and owner of the shooting range in Ohio, Cash, both who had a faulty or non-functioning eye: Zec his right, and Cash his left. This is symbolic to the shortsightedness of Zec to justice or ‘turning a blind eye’ to what’s morally and civically right.
Cash’s lopsided blindness emphasizes the essentiality of perfect eyesight in a sniper – because of his disability, he had to depend on the sound of gunshots in order to ascertain the position of the villains in the shoot out towards the end of the movie. And even though he was discerning, he did not hit the any targets with one shot, or any shots for that matter. On a broader narrative, it is translated to the idea that crime is not tackled incidentally, accidentally or by chance. Justice is precise, methodical and unequivocal. It is on point. It has to be, or else wavering facts will convict no one, and uphold nothing.
On a commendable level, Jack Reacher
didn’t deliver a linear and face-value portrayal of guns. Just like justice, guns were given a methodical and thoughtful presentation, almost as though they was revered and venerated. The respect it was given at the shooting range, juxtaposed by a sardonic one-liner by Cash who remarked caustically that “none of (his) customers was going to come back if they found out a cop came around and asked questions.” There is a controversial and satiric hint of the proposition of gun control and culture of arms in America. The Jack Reacher
premiere in Pittsburgh was postponed in light of the horrifying Sandy Hook Elementary School shootout in Connecticut. Paramount Pictures said it was doing so "out of honour and respect for the families of the victims whose lives were senselessly taken".
Actions speak louder than words. We can deduce that the postponement shows the sensitivity and relevancy of this issue linked directly to Jack Reacher
, indirectly conveying that gun control is an important aspect of the movie.
The theme of sniper and sight was supported by the use of seeing or eye imagery. One example was near the start of the movie when seemingly random people in the plaza were being targeted by the sniper through the lens of his rifle, going back and forth on different ones. It was further enhanced by the sniper position Cash took atop a hill during the aforementioned shootout.
This is actually highly reminiscing of Cruise’s other movie Minority Report
, where the imagery of eyes, eyeballs, eyesight, glasses, optical scanning, eye surgery were constantly employed to illustrate the theme of the character's blindness about what is happening to him in the story and his own role in the downfall of the Department of PreCrime, coupled with the metaphor of government control of individuals represented by the Department of PreCrime.
The craft of themes, symbolism to support it, were intelligently and well done. I appreciated those directions and techniques tremendously.
When we move on to the narrative, it was a tad bit disappointing though. There was immense potential as the storyline was extremely riveting and compelling; it started out strong at first setting a tone of resounding anticipation and prelude. But it was never picked up as the film rolled along, simply hanging limply as we snake through the labyrinth of twist and turns and car chases to obtain the truth. The pillars of script-writing, action sequences and acting need to support a mammoth of a plot like Jack Reacher
but it didn’t sustain.
Though it boasts a promising premise, it was not eloquently executed, jumping about a lot and resulted in an overall disintegrated and disjointed feature.
Perhaps the director bit off more than he can chew, failing to envision more shoot and screen time to produce meatier and more holistic scenes that the plot direly required. For example, I highly liked the approach of visiting the crime scene from multiple perspectives – from the garage through the criminal’s point of view, from the plaza through the victims themselves, and lastly from the highway against the warm waning sun – Reacher’s attempt to gain a perspective. It had echoed aesthetics of Vantage Point
, a thrilling drama which starred Forest Whittaker. I felt while this multi-perspective technique was a fancifully befitting touch, it could have been expatiated and developed more; that would have injected keener tastiness and intrigue into the film.
Likewise for Oline Archer, the true target of the massacre. Her story was only briefly touched upon before it was cast under the rug and never revisited again. If it was given just a greater insight and a more acute cognizance, it would enhance the strength of motive which will perpetually embroider upon the strength of villainy, a critical characteristic that would bolster the hype of an action/vigilante movie.
The head of a film, the script, did not manage to write redemption either. It was hard to catch what the cast were saying, the dialogue was meekly lukewarm, and built a wobbly base to the plot. I did get lost in the transitions and some of the key revelations, subsequently leaving me mildly flustered.
Characters are very important, as we know that. Substantial development and characterization don a movie to be more than just a hollow shell. I love Tom Cruise, I think he’s a great actor and superb at comedic scenes and timing. The martial arts techniques he employed during the raw fighting scenes were excruciatingly enticing. I loved watching his jabs and cracks that would just bend any attacker into submission. I felt he delivered in Jack Reacher
, but it certainly wasn’t one of his best works. In fact, it was quite disappointing that Reacher’s mannerisms, mentalities and behaviour had to rely heavily on stereotyping. Megan S. Conklin, a professor, wrote that “stereotypical characters can be relied upon to behave in an easily understood way. They move the plot along, without the writers having to spend a lot of time on character development.” This turned out to be highly true and necessary because of the complexity of the plot that took up the bulk of the movie that Reacher’s character depended on what a hard-ass, no-nonsense vigilante investigator would thought out to be like. Nothing different or unique. The villain, The Zec, did not manage to have development squeezed in too. His back story is so bleak and umbrage unsatisfying; duality of protagonist and antagonist did not crash into a collision of high-impact or drama of plot.
Besides Cruise, I have no inclination as to why Pike was being cast as Helen. She was expressionless and monotonously plastic in her acting that watching her became very dull and languishing. Oyelowo, who played Ermerson, the two-timing detective, was dreadfully flat too and truth be told, I was genuinely quite appalled by the laxity of the casting in general. Perhaps the studio was banking on the hope of Cruise pulling in all the fans and greens, but still – it’s not a one-man show. Many parts come together.
Go watch it once, but don’t expect much. The humour was good but other than that, Jack Reacher
might have missed the mark a tad bit too much.
Official Site of Author Lee Child
Official Site of Jack Reacher the Movie