TL;DR – The action is there, the characters are there, but something is just missing from this sequel that stops the film from excelling.
Score – 3 out of 5 stars
So full disclosure I didn’t watch the first Jack Reacher, nor have I read the books in the series by Lee Childs, and I was kind of tired of the film before I even went to see it because you could not open a Twitch stream, nor YouTube video without having to suffer through the trailer (yep that one right above you here). So I may not have come into the film with the best mindset but then honestly I don’t think you needed to see the last film or read the book to get the narrative because the writers use the opening sequence to pretty much set up the character of Jack Reacher (Tom Cruise) and his motivations, and thankfully it is that one scene in rural America with the sheriff and a phone call that you have probably already seen over and over again and they get it out of the way right at the start. So as far as American PG-13 action films go, Jack Reacher is not bad, however, it did feel like something was missing and because of that, it fell short of being a great film.
Jack Reacher: Never Go Back tells the story of, well you’ll never guess it Jack Reacher, since the last film he has apparently been hitchhiking across America and solving random military crimes along the way, because well you need to have your hobbies I guess. During his crime solving travels he starts contacting Major Susan Turner (Cobie Smulders) and after a while, they agree to meet up for some dinner, so Jack catches the first bus to Washington DC only to find out Maj. Turner has been arrested for espionage the day before and that Reacher has a surprise child who is now 15. From here a conspiracy will be uncovered, action will commence, and there will be a distinct lack of car chases.
While it might feel like I am being a bit snarky at Jack Reacher, and well I am, but there were a lot of things that I really liked. Firstly Cobie Smulders is amazing in these roles and frankly Marvel we need to see some more Maria Hill in the future. She has the physicality needed to pull off a military character, and can clearly hold her own on screen with Tom Cruise one of the stars of film today. As well as this, the action is really good, with a lot of close hand-to-hand combat that has some great choreography, though if you don’t like the sound of broken bones, this might not be the film for you. Also, while I’ll talk about the mystery child sub-plot in a moment, I liked that the character (for the most part) acted sensibly, like hiding instead of the usual rubbish you see in these films.
Now while I did like the film, it was clear that something was missing that meant the film did not hold up as well as it could have. Firstly, it kept feeling like the film wanted to make a profound comment on something, from women in the military, or how we treat our veterans, or the role of military oversight, or the role of military contractors, or the corruption that comes from the last two. However, whenever the film gets to the threshold of committing, it backs off, like they wanted to make the comment but then they also didn’t want to ruffle any feathers and this is really disappointing because instead of something insightful we just get the usual platitudes. While I am sure it is in the books, one thing they could have done during the scripting process was ditching the possible daughter sub-plot. Danika Yarosh (Samantha) does an admirable job while the role they have given her, but it always felt superfluous to the plot and [Spoilers] it ends up going nowhere anyway so it all feels a bit meh, at least it needed to be integrated into the story better if you were going to keep it [End of Spoilers]. Also, Tom Cruise’s performance felt a bit flat, he is one of the most charismatic actors on screen at the moment, so it is a little weird to see him being outclassed during a lot of this film, though he still kicks ass in the action sequences. Finally, the story in general, look we know there are a lot of problems with the role of military contractors in Iraq and Afghanistan, hell we have already had a movie [Review of War Dogs] all about that this year. However, you would hope that the actually US Military would not fall for what is clearly a set-up job, and if they did, surely all the deaths that were happening around here would have sent up so many red flags, like so many red flags, like so many a Tibetan monastery would go, dude that’s too many flags … you would hope.
Also, there were a couple of weird moments when it was clear that someone was being dubbed over as the lips did not match the words spoken. You might have been able to get away with that in Goldfinger but not in 2016.
In the end, there is much about Jack Reacher that I liked, but there are a number of issues that just hold it back from being a great film. If only there could be a good film on these really important issues, that I would really like to watch. (Also quick side note, if you are going to call your sequel ‘Never Go Back’ you really need it to hit a home run, or else you are begging people to title their reviews, ‘Never Go Back’ sums up the Jack Reacher sequel)
By Brian MacNamara: You can follow Brian on Twitter Here, when he’s not chatting about Movies and TV, he’ll be talking about International Relations, or the Solar System.
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Directed by – Edward Zwick
Written by – Richard Wenk, Edward Zwick & Marshall Herskovitz
Based on – Never Go Back by Lee Child
Music by – Henry Jackman
Starring – Tom Cruise, Cobie Smulders, Danika Yarosh, Patrick Heusinger, Aldis Hodge, Holt McCallany & Robert Knepper
Rating – Australia: M; Canada: PG; NZ: M; UK: 12A; USA: PG13