Jack Reacher (2012)
dir. Christopher McQuarrie
Tom Cruise plays Jack Reacher, the title character in this film adaptation of British author Lee Child’s novel One Shot. Since the film mostly follows Jack, I thought it was best to let the author describe in his own words, his “iconic hero”:
“He’s two things in one. On the surface, he is an ex-military cop who is suddenly dumped out into the civilian world. He doesn’t fit in, and he spends his time wandering America, seeing the things that he’s never had time to see before. He’s trying to stay out of trouble, but masterfully once a year getting into trouble. He’s also the descendant of a very ancient tradition: the noble loner, the knight errant, the mysterious stranger, who has shown up in stories forever.” *
1. Chiaroscuro for black and white films, intense or muted color in movies filmed in color (In either black and white or color, the technique is used to enhance the mood and/or the emotional content.) No
2. Flashbacks Yes
As Jack Reacher goes over the crime scene and envisions what occurred there, the audience has an opportunity to see what he seeing, on the screen. It helps emphasize several key points and also functions as an excellent visual guide for us.
3. Unusual narration No
4. Crime/planning a crime (usually—but not always—murder) Yes
Conspiracy; Corruption; Kidnapping; Murder
5. Femme fatale (and/or homme fatale) Yes
At first, Sandy (Alexia Fast) seems an unlikely femme fatale; she is young, unsophisticated, and her quarry shows no interest, yet the results prove just as troublesome for one and deadly for the other.
6. The instrument of fate Yes
Multiple victims of a sniper’s attack are chosen at random, a simple case of being in the wrong place at the wrong time.
7. Angst (for example, guilt, fear, self-doubt, confusion, and so on; in other words, anything that contributes to angst) Yes
While visiting with a distraught parent, armed with a hand gun, defense attorney Helen Rodin (Rosamund Pike) begins to fear for her life when she is ordered to, “…stay where you are! That man deserves to die, why would you defend him?”
As she discusses the evidence, Helen suddenly is stunned when realizing that her life may be in danger because someone she trusts may not have her back. “Whatever happens to me next is on your head. …I’ve given you compelling evidence to investigate. Your next move will tell me which side you are on.”
8. Violence or the threat of violence Yes
9. Urban and nighttime settings Yes
The setting is Pittsburgh. There is a nighttime brawl filmed outside a bar and later a car chase sequence involving Pittsburgh police, also filmed at night. Except for the opening scenes, most of the violence takes place at night.
10. Allusion to post–World War II (or any postwar) themes (optional) Yes
Reacher is a veteran of the Iraq, Afghanistan, and Balkans wars. He teams up with former marine sharpshooter Martin Cash (Robert Duval) to help get the bad guys.
11. Philosophical themes (existentialism in particular) involving alienation, loneliness Yes
Jack Reacher “is a ghost. No driver’s license- current or expired, no residence- current or former; no credit cards, no credit history, no PO box, Cell phone, email- nothing. After a lifetime in the military he just up and quits and then… simply disappears.” He is alienated, as if abstracted from the world and for most of the story, has no allies.
12. Psychology (hypnosis, brainwashing, manipulation, amnesia) Yes
The evidence found at the crime scene has been tampered with and manipulated, in order to draw investigators away from those responsible.
The suspect, James Barr, has trouble remembering anything about the incident. “I don’t remember wanting to do it. Look, I am not going to fight this, if they say I done it, then I did.”
13. Greed Yes
Here the counselor explains the background story to the plot:
Helen: [A Russian corporation acquires] local construction [businesses] just a head of major civic redevelopment projects. They build bridges no one needs, and highways no one uses…They moved 12 times in 15 years, Atlanta, Albuquerque, Austin, Oklahoma City, Sacramento, always amidst allegations of corruption including millions of dollars in missing public funds and yet never an investigation, never even an inquiry!
14. Betrayal Yes
Definitely yes, but no SPOILERS here.
15. No stark contrast between “good” and “evil” (characters, forces, emotion, and so on) Yes
Jack Reacher is a “brilliant investigator” with good instincts, but he also has “attitude” and often views with contempt, most of the people he engages. His final act in the story calls into question the moral ambiguity of the true nature of his character. Is he a flawed man looking for justice by any means? Or is he an idealist who gets carried away? The viewers must decide.
“There’s this guy. He’s a kind of cop; at least he used to be. He doesn’t care about the law, he doesn’t care about proof, he only cares about what is right.”
16. Expertise triumphs, perhaps rather than “good” Yes
Jack Reacher’s expertise in pursuing “trained killers” during his service in the military police, goes a long way into solving this case.
14 of 16 neo-noir characteristics for this well written, directed and produced crime thriller.