I try not to let the media's portrayal of actors' personal lives affect me. Say what you want about Tom Cruise, I've always found him a worthy Hollywood star. The great thing about 'Jack Reacher' is that it blends the old Cruise style, the one that everyone used to love, with the action style that he has more recently adopted. Get ready for 'A Few Good Men' meets Ethan Hunt.
If you remember, Paramount canceled the 'Jack Reacher' premiere in the wake of the Sandy Hook Elementary school shooting, presumably because of the movie's opening sequence - a drawn out and highly uncomfortable scene involving a sniper taking fire on innocent and unsuspecting pedestrians in a public space. While watching a theatrical press screening just one week after Sandy Hook, this scene was almost unbearable; after the recent events in Boston, it's even more so. But if you can make it through this one hard-to-watch moment in the film, everything that follows is well worth it.
The police find the shooter, an ex-military sniper with a history of violence and psychological problems stemming from post-traumatic stress, within hours. Once arrested, the shooter won't speak. Instead, he writes down one name: Jack Reacher. "Who the hell is Jack Reacher?" is a question asked many times. Once a highly successful officer in the military police, Reacher is now an off-the-grid "drifter with nothing to lose." Why does the suspect want Reacher? Well, that's the second most asked question in the film, but you have to watch it to find out.
'Reacher' places Tom Cruise back in a role similar to his part in 'A Few Good Men,' where he's determined to uncover a case and expose every guilty party involved. It's a detective / investigatory movie without the courtroom scenes and the limitations of his character being a lawman. Yes, the majority of it is serious, but it also has a great amount of well-placed comedy that keeps it from being too dramatic and bogged down by darkness. These moments, combined with Reacher's unpredictability, blunt violence, and unrestrained mouth, keep the film from depressing audiences with its uneasy opening.
The stylized action takes a step back from the hyper-editing that has become a genre norm. Instead of fast-cutting shots of distracting close-ups that leave the on-screen actions indiscernible, the camera is pulled back and steady; the takes are longer, allowing you to soak it all in and appreciate the well-choreographed fight sequences. Each action scene breathes a breath of rejuvenating life into the genre that has recently been on the box office decline.
I get the feeling that anyone who has ever liked Tom Cruise will enjoy 'Jack Reacher'. It's like a mix-tape of everything good that Cruise has ever done. The movie itself even highlights this idea by tossing in elements from his old movies blended with those of his newer movies – for example, like the soon-to-be-deemed "classic" high-speed chase between a muscle car and a new performance car. His character is a quiet introspective guy who "wants to be left alone," but when his buttons are pushed, he becomes a quick-witted and mouthy antagonist,one who's very entertaining to watch. Get ready for a "Best-of" Tom Cruise that's engaging, intelligent, tense and fun.
The Blu-ray: Vital Disc Stats
Paramount has given 'Jack Reacher' a fully loaded Blu-ray release. The BD-50 is accompanied by a DVD copy and a code for both a Digital Copy and an Ultraviolet copy of the film. The blue header at the top of the cover art sheet and the glossy cardboard slipcase only advertises the Digital Copy, but the back of the case and an easily removable sticker let you know that there's an Ultraviolet copy too. The sticker (which can be easily removed without residue) also lets you know that slips are included in the two-disc Elite keepcase that give you access to a $10 coupon for a sporting event through Ticketmaster and access to the first chapter of Lee Child's upcoming Jack Reacher novel, 'Never Go Back.' Aside from an unskippable Paramount HD vanity reel, nothing plays before the main menu.
The 1080p/AVC MPEG-4 encode that 'Jack Reacher' has been given is flawless. It's gorgeous, carrying a clean, sharp look with highly visible details and not a single problem.
Made to feel like an older film, there's a nice amount of grain dusting the image throughout – but it doesn't distract from the clarity or resolution of the picture. Stellar details still abound in this crisp film. Jai Courtney's stubble is so sharp that each individual hair can be seen. A close-up shot on a nervous sniper's blackened thumb reveals the tiniest shreds of skin that result from repeatedly loading ammunition. Close-ups show every single pore on Cruise's aging face. The details never – not once – let up from this great state.
Black levels are extremely deep and intense, creating a tension because you never know what might be hidden within them. Shadows are strong. Colors are bright and vibrant – especially reds. Being a PG-13 film, there's an unrealistic lack of blood, but the absence of red during violent scenes almost makes the color appear extra noticeable when present. The juice that flies from a shot slushy machine is bright and eye-catching. The red polo shirts of DeFault Auto Parts' employees is loud. There are plenty of other colors featured in this dark film's palette, each of them packing a punch of their own, but not as vibrant as red.
'Jack Reacher' carries a great three-dimensional look. If you're paying close attention, there are a few scenes that really play with it. Two camera shots are combined into one to give us the "looking through the scope" shots. Realistically, since no sniper would ever place his/her eye up against the rim of a scope (not without cracking a head open anyway), these P.O.V. shots reveal both layers of what a sniper would see. With a head held a few inches behind the scope, you would see the natural distance to the target and the zoom image in the cross-hairs. The borders of the screen reveal the deep three-dimensional look of the real world, but the zoomed circular inner images from the scope are just as flat as they would appear if looking through a real scope. Seeing these two contrasting depth qualities on-screen is a great example of how "3D" a two-dimensional image can appear. The care that director Christopher McQuarrie has put into the shoot of 'Jack Reacher' has me rooting for him to helm 'Mission: Impossible 5.'
Almost as impressive as the video quality is the fantastic 7.1 DTS-HD Master Audio mix. Aside from a few lulls during the downtime in the film, the audio mix is brilliant.
Continuing the idea of 'Jack Reacher' being a throwback film is the original score. Joe Kraemer's more-than-fitting music is perfectly spread throughout all channels. During the opening credits, the music is the main player. No dialogue is overlaid, allowing the score to accompany the on-screen action in building up tension to the uncomfortable intro.
The vocal mix is also great. Clean and layered, you'll never miss a single witty line. The effects are spread dynamically – including mixing with the voices. One scene takes place in a police station interrogation cell. The cinder block and glass walls cause the actors' voices to slightly echo in the most realistic manner.
Perfect examples of imaging effects are frequent. Ricocheting slugs ping around the room. Cars can be heard soaring across the room prior to appearing on screen. Action scenes pack an additional punch of deep and resonant bass. You will hear metal twisting during the engine-centric car sequences that feature rumbling revving and violent sounds of cars loudly crunching into one another.
If it hadn't been for little spaces of inactive downtime, this lossless mix would be reference quality.
If you're wanting to dig into the 'Jack Reacher' goodies, then you've got to spring for the Blu-ray. The single-disc DVD release is special feature-free.
If you are or have ever been a fan of Tom Cruise, then I cannot think of a single reason why you would not love 'Jack Reacher.' Cruise delivers another classic performance, perhaps one of the most entertaining of his career. The screenplay is solid, actively requiring you to try solving the mystery along with the mouthy central character. The action is old school - cameras pulled back far enough to see the fighting unfold and longer takes allowing you to comprehend what it's seeing. With flawless video and a fantastic 7.1 audio mix, what else could you want from this Blu-ray? It might seem light on special features, but they're meaty, much more expansive than your average disc. If you've lost your faith in Tom Cruise, give 'Jack Reacher' as a solid shot and you'll be pleasantly surprised. Highly recommended.