DIR: Edward Zwick • WRI: Richard Wenk, Edward Zwick, Marshall Herskovitz • PRO: Tom Cruise, Don Granger, Christopher McQuarrie • DOP: Oliver Wood • ED: Billy Weber • DES: Clay A. Griffith • MUS: Henry Jackman • CAST: Tom Cruise, Cobie Smulders, Danika Yarosh
Back in 2012, Tom Cruise produced and starred in an action film called Jack Reacher that not many people saw or can remember that well. The Christopher McQuarrie film (who would later direct Cruise in the more successful Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation) had the misfortune of releasing in the middle of a career slump between Rock of Ages and Oblivion when audiences’ tolerance for Cruise was beginning to wane. However, Jack Reacher was an overall decent film not helped by marketing trying to disguise that the story had very little action to offer and was a more low-key affair from the typical Cruise vehicle. As an action adventure it was advertised as being, it was incredibly dull, but the film displayed a detective mystery sensibility, with Tom Cruise’s Reacher being an enjoyable stand-in for Sherlock Holmes. Now, with Edward Zwick taking over as director, Tom Cruise returns in Jack Reacher: Never Go Back but with a more intensely action-driven focus than its slower-paced predecessor.
Based on the eighteenth novel in the Jack Reacher series, Never Go Back follows Reacher in a case of government conspiracy. Jack has been given continuous help from Major Susan Turner (Cobie Smulders; The Avengers) in his crime-solving across the United States. However, when Jack intends to meet Turner in person, the military inform him that she has been relieved of command and arrested on grounds of espionage. Believing Turner to be innocent, Jack sets out to free Turner of all charges but soon finds himself arrested on suspicion of murder. Finally meeting Turner for the first time as he breaks her out of prison, the two escapees begin their hunt to track down those responsible for framing Turner before either the military or those responsible find and kill them.
While some of the quips and style make a welcome return to Jack Reacher: Never Go Back, it’s equally a very different movie in an attempt to possibly make itself more marketable. It has its action sequences, it has its emotional sequences, it has it shirtless Tom Cruise scenes, running Tom Cruise scenes, and its comedic inserts to relieve tension. Comparatively, the cinematography, writing, and editing are lacking to the first film but that’s simply an extension of the overall by-the-numbers set-pieces which this sequel delivers. As a result of relying on familiar territory, it’s also an extremely lacking experience to watch.
The generic quality is never helped by Tom Cruise’s stoic performance. As a character, Jack Reacher can be enigmatic and impertinent but never emotionless. In Jack Reacher, Cruise utilizes his charisma to make Reacher more enjoyable to follow but knowing so little about the character also made him more dangerous and inscrutable as to what his intentions might be. Never Go Back tries to capture the mystery to Reacher as a character, unveiling fragments of a back story in a potential daughter (Danika Yarosh; Heroes Reborn), but opts to have Cruise restrain himself from emoting anything beyond gravitas and anger. It remains a mystery why so many action films feel compelled to utilize a stoic protagonist when it’s proven time and time again that if the main character is unfazed by any threat or situation then so, too, is the audience which makes it more boring as a result.
Occasionally, Reacher’s persona allows the film to poke fun at Tom Cruise’s own public image and a strong chemistry between Cruise, Smulders, and Yarosh makes the film less dull during its quieter moments. Cobie Smulder, in particular, stands out exceptionally as Turner, demonstrating an ability to do action films that the Marvel film series has yet to do with her character. When Never Go Back demands nothing exceptionally difficult from its cast, it’s surprising and refreshing to see Smulder pick up the slack for Tom Cruise by showcasing a wider acting range that makes her character far more interesting to watch.
It’s difficult to know whether another Jack Reacher film might develop after the release of Never Go Back. While it might be comfortable to place Tom Cruise within a typical action setting, it also hinders the film by turning itself inadvertently into Mission Impossible on a smaller budget. Jack Reacher was far from great but had personality and an overall sense of trying to deliver something different than what might be expected from the near-55 year old action star. It’s a shame so much of that has been removed from Never Go Back but if Jack Reacher is to return to solve another mystery, hopefully that personality and style returns with him.
12A (See IFCO for details)
Jack Reacher: Never Go Back is released 21st October 2016