Tom Cruise makes a good ‘Jack Reacher’

jack-reacher-tom-cruise

I noted yesterday I hoped to see “Jack Reacher,” the movie adaptation of Lee Child’s wandering troubleshooter character. I did see it and wanted to share a few thoughts.

I was as skeptical as anyone when Paramount announced that Tom Cruise would be playing Reacher. He’s nearly a foot shorter than Child’s ex-MP, maybe 80 pounds lighter and not nearly as ape-ishly ugly as Reacher in the books.

But Cruise does a good job of essaying the terse confidence and quiet physicality of Reacher in the movie. Although I thought a few times about the difference in appearance, I was pleased overall with Cruise’s presence and performance.

As fans of the book “One Shot,” from which the plot of “Jack Reacher” was taken, know, director Christopher McQuarrie is fairly faithful to the book. After former Army sniper James Barr is arrested for killing several people with a high-powered rifle, he asks for Jack Reacher. The police are stumped, however: Reacher has no home, no ID, no good way of being tracked.

At about that time, Reacher shows up, unannounced, having seen news accounts of the killing spree. The cops think he’s there to defend his former military cohort. But Reacher, convinced that Barr killed several civilians in the Middle East, believes the man is guilty.

Reacher is persuaded to work as an investigator for Barr’s defense attorney (Rosamund Pike) and slowly begins to unravel a plot that ensnared Barr.

Fans of the book will notice a few characters are missing. Happily, one of the best characters from the book, a shooting range owner and Reacher ally named Cash, is in the movie and is played by a wry Robert Duvall. He’s good and adds a bit of humanity to Reacher, who as a character can be so superhuman he can be, well, unreachable.

That’s part of the fun of Child’s books, however. Reacher is such a capable, lethal, smart soldier that it’s fun to watch him tear his way through opponents.

Random observations:

Lee Child has a cameo in the movie. He’s the desk sergeant giving Reacher back his passport, toothbrush and cash – familiar to fans of the books as pretty much all Reacher carries with him – when Reacher is released from jail.

Although the book is set in Indiana – in a made-up city – the movie’s setting is Pittsburgh. Wonder why the change?

The movie is true to the tradition of Reacher taking a bit of punishment. And of people being horrified by his wounds. What Reacher doesn’t say, however: “You should have seen the other guy.”

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