Tom Cruise may be oddly miscast in this big action movie, but he certainly knows how to make one of these preposterous films connect with an audience. And writer-director McQuarrie adds a driving sense of internal logic that keeps it consistently enjoyable. So even if the hero in Lee Child's series of novels is a 6-foot-5 blond-haired, blue-eyed muscle-man, the cast and crew get away withThe story takes place in Pittsburgh, where a multiple shooting leads Detective Emerson (Oyelowo) and DA Rodin (Jenkins) to a withdrawn gun nut (Sikora). It seems like an open-and-shut case until man of mystery Jack Reache (Cruise) turns up. An off-the-grid ex-Army agent, Jack offers to help defence attorney Helen (Pike) prove her client's innocence. Of course, he instantly solves the case, uncovering a conspiracy and putting himself and Helen in danger from a ruthless Russian (Herzog) and his henchman (Courtenay). Meanwhile, Jack befriends a gun-range owner (Duvall) who has a connection to the case.

There's clearly an attempt here to echo Bourne-style questioning of identity and morality through Jack's hazy history and super-spy methodology. And the plot is also packed with far-fetched details and silly connections (Helen is Rodin's daughter), although McQuarrie does his best to keep things plausible and intelligent enough to hold our attention. There's also a sense of the bigger issue in Jack's life, that he can't cope with the grey-scale relativity in society and prefers right-or-wrong battlefield morality. He also hates modern-day connectivity, refusing to carry a mobile phone. But then he doesn't travel with a vehicle, weapon or change of clothing either; he prefers to "borrow" everything as needed.

Despite being nearly a foot shorter than the literary Jack, Cruise inhabits the role nicely, offering a slightly scrapper, more shadowy version of his Mission: Impossible character. But he's just as sexless, never putting much oomph into his flirtation with the always terrific Pike. On the other hand, he generously lets his costars steal every scene. Duvall is hilariously offhanded, while Herzog adds his own mad genius into his role as a, well, mad genius. And Oyelowo more than holds his own opposite these veteran hams. So even if the film never tries to be anything more than a ripping, mindless thriller, the stylish filmmaking and cool characters make it an enjoyable waste of time.

Continue reading: Jack Reacher Review