The hero from Lee Child's series of novels is back - well, the Tom Cruise version of the hero. He may be a 6-foot-5 blond muscle-man in the books, but Cruise weathered the storm with the unusually smart first movie, and now he returns for a remarkably gritty action thriller that feels like the antithesis of his Mission: Impossible movies. This is an ageing hero who gets hurt and recognises the laws of gravity.
As he roams around America helping strangers, Jack (Tom Cruise) keeps in touch with Susan (Cobie Smulders), who took his old job as commanding officer of a military police base. But just as he decides to drop in to meet her, she's arrested on trumped-up charges. And he is also promptly framed for murder and locked up. All of this happens just as he discovers that 15-year-old Samantha (Danika Yarosh) is his daughter. So Jack and Susan break out of prison and take Sam along as they try to sort out why they are suddenly on the wrong side of the law. Everything seems to trace back to a shady private contractor (Robert Knepper) who has sent a ruthless killer (Patrick Heusinger) to stop them.
In normal action blockbusters, this kind of plot would play out with massive explosions, physics-defying car chases and superhuman characters who take a hit and keep on going. But director Edward Zwick (who directed Cruise in The Last Samurai) takes a much more thoughtful, realistic approach that sometimes makes the film feel like it's moving in slow motion by comparison. Cruise is decidedly mortal in this role, needing to take a moment to recover after every punch. Since he's not invincible, Jack is far more engaging as a character, especially as he grapples with issues surrounding unexpected fatherhood. He also strikes just the right balance of flirtatious camaraderie with Smulders' Susan, never tipping over into a corny action-movie romance.
Continue reading: Jack Reacher: Never Go Back Review
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