Film of the week

Film review: Tom Cruise walks tall as Lee Child’s enigmatic top gun Jack Reacher

3.00

Werner Herzog’s villain is a man so single-minded he survived frostbite by chewing his fingers off

Don’t send a Diddyman to do a Titan’s job. That would be the message coming from the fans of Jack Reacher, hero extraordinaire of Lee Child’s thriller novels. Reacher is 6ft 5in.

Tom Cruise, who produces and stars in the movie, is 5ft 7in. So he’s lost a few inches. Does it really matter? Reacher is already a man of myth, and not just in stature – he’s a canny street-fighter, a top-class marksman, and a brilliant investigator with a photographic memory. He can tell the time without looking at a watch and he can drive a car in reverse at Formula One speed. You could hire a Hobbit to play this guy and he wouldn’t look any less preposterous. Cruise is actually an obvious choice for the part, because he’s too much of a narcissist to care.

Christopher McQuarrie (The Usual Suspects), adapting from One Shot, the ninth in the Reacher series, has managed, in spite of all, to make a competent mystery thriller. It starts with a sniper in a high-rise Pittsburgh carpark drawing a bead on the unsuspecting cityscape below. We see passers-by strolling through the crosshairs of his telescopic rifle, and the shooter’s finger hovering over the trigger. Then he picks off five of them, apparently at random, one by one. Within minutes, the police are on the scene, they’ve got DNA evidence from a bullet casing, and they’ve arrested a troubled Iraq veteran who looks guilty all ends up. The DA (Richard Jenkins) thinks it’s an open-and-shut number, but his daughter, a crusading lawyer (Rosamund Pike) is not so convinced. The suspect, before he was beaten into a coma, made a single request: call Jack Reacher.

Enter the man of the moment, an ex-military policeman who’s dropped off the grid (no email, no cellphone, no credit history) and now drifts about the US righting wrongs. He’s just come from the bus station, and unless Pike can convince him to take the case, he’s going right back: “I can walk there in 24 minutes,” he tells her coolly. What kind of sad sack would time his journey from the station to a diner? Just part of his control-freak personality, it seems, along with a refusal to pack more than one set of clothes – jeans, plaid shirt, long-sleeved vest thing. This minimalist outfit means he can go shirtless while doing his laundry, though in his semi-naked scene, director McQuarrie chooses a bizarre angle at which to shoot him: poor Rosamund seems to be directly addressing the Cruise pectorals.

Reacher has a theory about the shooter and his victims, a theory that the lawyer calls “grassy-knoll ludicrous”, but she doesn’t know yet that Reacher is right. Actually, he’s always right. Such an Übermensch requires a suitable adversary, and, mein gott, do they have one. Werner Herzog, wild man of movie-making, plays a criminal genius called The Zec, a man so single-minded that he survived a Siberian prison and frostbite by chewing the fingers off his own hand – thus avoiding gangrene. When one of his underlings messes up, The Zec offers him an alternative to death: he too must chew the fingers off his own hand. How do you suppose he does? Sadly, Herzog’s Medusa stare and villainous Mitteleuropa vowels are underused, the bulk of the screentime colonised by our diminutive star. Reacher may stop short of finger-eating, but he does know how to knock a man unconscious using another man’s head. And he’s still showing off that micromanaging memory of his. An enemy phoning him to make a rendezvous says, “You got a pen?” Jack comes back in a flash: “Don’t need one”. Ooh! I bet he drinks milk straight out of the carton, too.

McQuarrie keeps the wheels turning, though, and delivers action setpieces with élan. While the film isn’t in the same league as Cruise’s previous outing on Mission: Impossible, there’s a slam-bang energy not to be sniffed at. All the same... Can we talk about the elephant in the review? I saw Jack Reacher a couple of days after the news of the Sandy Hook school massacre in Connecticut, which made it impossible to watch those opening scenes without a reflexive sense of dismay. It’s not any particular fault of this film – dozens come out every year in which firearms are fetishised and marksmanship is just another talent – but its timing is plainly a disaster. A later scene in which Reacher meets up with a grizzled oldster (Robert Duvall) who runs a shooting range merely emphasises how deeply entrenched is gun use in American culture. In most other weeks, a film’s preoccupation with random murders wouldn’t have been noteworthy; but in the aftermath of Sandy Hook, it’s the only thing you do note.

Some will say this is society’s problem, not the movies’. But movies and society are conjoined, and you don’t get one without the other. Images of violence and bloodshed do not float free of context, they inhabit our heads, they haunt our memories, and in the end they may just desensitise our brains. Film critics can’t help knowing this, because they are more desensitised than most. How could it be otherwise, when we watch movies like this one week in, week out? That’s why the “controversy” about Tom Cruise’s missing inches looks to be almost an irrelevance. If you want to get steamed up about something, ask yourself how a film about cold-eyed killers has been rated a 12A and splashed as this Boxing Day’s must-see event.

Arts and Entertainment
Nick Hewer is to leave The Apprentice after 10 years

TV review Nick Hewer, the man whose eyebrows speak a thousand words, is set to leave The Apprentice

Arts and Entertainment
Female fans want more explicit male sex in Game of Thrones, George R R Martin says

film George RR Martin owns a cinema in Santa Fe

Arts and Entertainment
Clued up: John Lynch and Gillian Anderson in ‘The Fall’

TV review

Arts and Entertainment
The Baker (James Corden) struggles with Lilla Crawford’s Little Red Riding Hood

film...all the better to bamboozle us
Arts and Entertainment
English: Romantic Landscape

art
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
Mark, Katie and Sanjay in The Apprentice boardroom
TV
Arts and Entertainment

Film The critics but sneer but these unfashionable festive films are our favourites

Arts and Entertainment
Frances O'Connor and James Nesbitt in 'The Missing'

TV We're so close to knowing what happened to Oliver Hughes, but a last-minute bluff crushes expectations

Arts and Entertainment
Joey Essex will be hitting the slopes for series two of The Jump

TV

Who is taking the plunge?
Arts and Entertainment
Katy Perry as an Ancient Egyptian princess in her latest music video for 'Dark Horse'

music
Arts and Entertainment
Dame Judi Dench, as M in Skyfall

film
Arts and Entertainment
Morrissey, 1988

TV
Arts and Entertainment
William Pooley from Suffolk is flying out to Free Town, Sierra Leone, to continue working in health centres to fight Ebola after surviving the disease himself

music
Arts and Entertainment
The Newsroom creator Aaron Sorkin

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Matt Berry (centre), the star of Channel 4 sitcom 'Toast of London'

TVA disappointingly dull denouement
Arts and Entertainment
Tales from the cryptanalyst: Benedict Cumberbatch in 'The Imitation Game'

film
Arts and Entertainment
Pixie Lott has been voted off Strictly Come Dancing 2014

Strictly
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Homeless Veterans appeal: 'You look for someone who's an inspiration and try to be like them'

    Homeless Veterans appeal

    In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
    Could cannabis oil reverse the effects of cancer?

    Could cannabis oil reverse effects of cancer?

    As a film following six patients receiving the controversial treatment is released, Kate Hilpern uncovers a very slippery issue
    The Interview movie review: You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here

    The Interview movie review

    You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here
    Serial mania has propelled podcasts into the cultural mainstream

    How podcasts became mainstream

    People have consumed gripping armchair investigation Serial with a relish typically reserved for box-set binges
    Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up for hipster marketing companies

    Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up

    Kevin Lee Light, aka "Jesus", is the newest client of creative agency Mother while rival agency Anomaly has launched Sexy Jesus, depicting the Messiah in a series of Athena-style poses
    Rosetta space mission voted most important scientific breakthrough of 2014

    A memorable year for science – if not for mice

    The most important scientific breakthroughs of 2014
    Christmas cocktails to make you merry: From eggnog to Brown Betty and Rum Bumpo

    Christmas cocktails to make you merry

    Mulled wine is an essential seasonal treat. But now drinkers are rediscovering other traditional festive tipples. Angela Clutton raises a glass to Christmas cocktails
    5 best activity trackers

    Fitness technology: 5 best activity trackers

    Up the ante in your regimen and change the habits of a lifetime with this wearable tech
    Paul Scholes column: It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves

    Paul Scholes column

    It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves
    Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

    Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

    Club World Cup kicked into the long grass by the continued farce surrounding Blatter, Garcia, Russia and Qatar
    Frank Warren column: 2014 – boxing is back and winning new fans

    Frank Warren: Boxing is back and winning new fans

    2014 proves it's now one of sport's biggest hitters again
    Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton: The power dynamics of the two first families

    Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton

    Karen Tumulty explores the power dynamics of the two first families
    Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley with a hotbed of technology start-ups

    Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley

    The Swedish capital is home to two of the most popular video games in the world, as well as thousands of technology start-ups worth hundreds of millions of pounds – and it's all happened since 2009
    Did Japanese workers really get their symbols mixed up and display Santa on a crucifix?

    Crucified Santa: Urban myth refuses to die

    The story goes that Japanese store workers created a life-size effigy of a smiling "Father Kurisumasu" attached to a facsimile of Our Lord's final instrument of torture
    Jennifer Saunders and Kate Moss join David Walliams on set for TV adaptation of The Boy in the Dress

    The Boy in the Dress: On set with the stars

    Walliams' story about a boy who goes to school in a dress will be shown this Christmas