CENTURY CITY, CA - Jack Reacher: Never Go Back, starring Tom Cruise and Cobie Smulders, based on the books by Lee Childs, finds Tom Cruise as the vigilante former Army Military Police Commander who takes on bad guys because he didn't like the way his former employers handled the job. Lee Childs wrote 21 Jack Reacher novels with five additional short stories. The book that bears the same title as the film is the eighteenth book of the series.
I think perhaps the timeline jump may be responsible for why some of this movie may feel like we are missing some story elements. Edward Zwick who directed The Last Samurai with Tom Cruise seemed to be a little out of his element with an action franchise. The pacing was brilliant but the story seemed lost. Tom Cruise is still an action hero, no one is arguing this point. I loved him as Ethan Hunt in the Mission Impossible franchise and he does take on the role of Jack Reacher with his own take on the protagonist.
As Jack Reacher, there is a restraint to the development of his character perhaps because we are farther into the book series than his first movie. Reacher's journey to do the right thing does not come off as clear as it should. I felt like I needed to read the books to really know why Reacher was at this critical point in his life and why he felt he had to deal with bad guys the way he did. His sociopathic behavior seemed colder than the first film. I understand he felt betrayed by the military in some way but I felt there was more to the story.
Tom Cruise does give us a slight smile once in awhile that gives you hope the character may have some depth but this part of Reacher's personality remained a mystery. I was a fan of the first Jack Reacher film, which is based on the ninth book in the series "One Shot". In "Never Go Back," we leap to book 18, which takes us far into the future, straight into the action of this action thriller book series.
Tom Cruise gets arrested for taking care of some dirt bags by a corrupt Sheriff in the beginning of the film, and he is introduced to a Major Turner, who has replaced the previous head of Military Police. Reacher and Turner begin to have flirtatious conversations as Reacher makes a connection with Turner who he begins to trust. It is this bond that leads him to drop by and visit her in DC. When he arrives he finds out Turner has been court-martialed for Treason. Something about this situation does not feel right to him. Reacher talks to Turner's attorney, who tells him that Turner does not want to see him or have him involved. He reveals to Reacher that he has a 15 year old daughter, showing him paperwork that an ex-prostitute filed a paternity suit against him. Reacher denies this, but you can tell he is curious, so he steals the teenager's photo.
The situation takes a turn when Turner's attorney is killed after giving Reacher a message from Turner. Later, her replacement, Colonel Morgan (Holt McCallany), uses a loop hole to bring Reacher back to active duty so he can arrest him for the murder of the attorney. A complete set up. Reacher figures out a way to get Major Turner out of military prison to get an explanation, while they end up on the run not only from the military police but also from an elite group of mercenaries. Reacher can't decide if she is innocent or not until he talks to her. She tells him it began when two soldiers were killed under her command in suspicious circumstances when they investigate a claim of corruption. She is held responsible and court-martialed after their deaths.
She is unable to read their last report because her access is stripped from her. Cobie Smulders lights up the screen with her dynamic portrayal of Turner and her passion to right the wrong that was done to her soldiers. As they decide what to do next, Reacher realizes they will go after his supposed 15 year old daughter Samantha (Danika Yarosh), who is a rebellious teenager who is still naive about the world around her. Reacher, Turner and Samantha end up in New Orleans thanks to Samantha's ability to steal credit cards as they look for the one witness that can exonerate Major Turner. A very evil, talented mercenary known as "The Hunter" (Patrick Heusinger), who decides to go after Reacher not only because of Turner but for his own unhinged personal reasons.
Jack Reacher: Never Go Back is an action thriller movie with lots of fight sequences with enhanced sound that puts the action in your face. A conspiracy-driven story that doesn't feel new or fresh, but does remind you of a Max Payne game. If you are action movie fan, this isn't a Bourne or Bond movie, but it does move quickly from point to point with a lot of gratuitous violence.
Jack Reacher: Never Go Back, a Paramount Pictures release. Rated PG-13, Running time 118 minutes.