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JACK REACHER
Blu-ray Edition

Review by Gordon Justesen

Stars: Tom Cruise, Rosamund Pike, Richard Jenkins, Werner Herzog, David Oyelowo, Jai Courtney, Robert Duvall
Director: Christopher McQuarrie
Audio: DTS HD 7.1
Video: Anamorphic Widescreen 2.35:1
Studio: Paramount
Features: See Review
Length: 130 Minutes
Release Date: May 7, 2013

“Now this is how it’s gonna work. You’re gonna give me the address and I’ll be along when I’m damn good and ready. If she doesn’t answer the phone when I call this number, if I even think you’ve hurt her, I disappear. And if you’re smart, that scares you. Because I’m in your blind spot, and I have nothing better to do!”

Film ***1/2

Now this, for the longest time, is what I’ve been hungry for! It’s been far too long since we had a straight up, intelligent action thriller for viewers who like to think a little while being entertained. Jack Reacher could very much be the establishing of a new breed of cinematic action hero.

With the character existing in nearly a dozen novels, courtesy of author Lee Child, a continuing franchise could hopefully be in the works. And with producer and star Tom Cruise bringing his one of a kind charisma to the role and successfully owning it, I for one hope him repeat the character as many times as he can. It goes without saying that Mr. Cruise defied all the haters who thought he was wrong for the part based simply on a physical scale.

Adapted and directed by Usual Suspects writer Christopher McQuarrie, the film is actually based on the ninth novel in the Reacher series, “One Shot”. And yet, it serves as a downright perfect introduction of the character for audiences who have both come to cherish on the page and are just now discovering him for the first time. McQuarrie also manages to craft a tightly paced and highly intelligent action thriller, which I find to be one of the best examples of top flight mainstream filmmaking in quite some time.

The film opens with a brutally potent sequence, as a sniper plants himself in a parking deck and shoots five innocent people on a riverbank in Pittsburgh. Not long after the incident, police bring into custody a suspect who carries the very skills needed to carry out such an act. The suspect gives the police only three words; “Get Jack Reacher”.

And just moments later, Reacher (Cruise) walks right in to the D.A.’s office, asking to see the very man in custody. He admits to the police that the arrested suspect was known to have a violent past in the military, where he was indeed trained to become the highest form of sniper. And though Reacher comes to the conclusion that the man they have in custody could be the guilty party, he is asked to dig deeper by the suspect’s lawyer, Helen Rodin (Rosamund Pike).

Once Reacher, an-ex Army investigator, puts his detective skills to work (studying the crime scene, replaying the incident in his head from different angles, digging into the lives of the victims, etc.), he then starts to think something bigger is at play. Convinced that four of the five victims were killed to cover the murder of one, Reacher suspects that a major conspiracy is behind it all. And it may even go so far as D.A.’s office.

As the plot progresses, Reacher is targeted by all sorts of low lives. Although somehow connected to the larger villains, they mostly add up to bumbling idiots who shouldn’t even bother picking a fight with someone far more intelligent. This is illustrated in a fight outside a bar where Reacher beats down three men in a five against one scenario (the other two run off), and later when two geniuses attempt to sneak up on Reacher in a bathroom and seem to destroy everything in their path but the intended target (two terrifically fun scenes).

But without question, the highlight of the movie is the most riveting car chase to ever be put on film in quite some time. We’re talking a sequence at the level of Bullit, as Reacher high speeds in a Chevy Chevelle SS (one of my absolute dream cars) down the streets of Pittsburgh once he’s been framed for murder. The sequence doesn’t appear to have any hint of CGI, which is all too refreshing, making it the most authentic looking car chase in a long, long time…and the way it ends will make you laugh and cheer simultaneously.

Like him or hate him, Tom Cruise remains a true movie star of the highest caliber and one who is very smart at picking terrific projects. In producing this, it shows that he knows audiences are hungry for entertainment fare that is smarter than the majority of what they usually get. Jack Reacher is that very movie, and is deserving of becoming the next big action thriller franchise!

Video ****

Paramount should be congratulated heavily for releasing one damn terrific looking Blu-ray! A film shot in 35mm is almost a rare case these days, but this movie went the not-so traditional route and the result is nothing but the finest type of visual presentation Blu-ray can offer. Gloriously shot in panoramic widescreen, the picture and color quality is nothing short of spectacular from beginning to end. Image detail is superbly handled and both daytime and nighttime sequences are captured wonderfully!

Audio ****

Likewise, the 7.1 DTS HD mix brings a terrific amount of audio force to the proceedings. The performance of Joe Kraemer’s intense score grabs you in the opening title sequence, building up to the unsettling murder sequence that sets the plot in motion. And the aforementioned car chase will enliven your sound system just with the sound of the car’s engine. Dialogue delivery is at 100%, as are the other action bits in the movie. Not a single false note to be found here.

Features ***

Included on this Blu-ray are two commentary tracks; the first one with Tom Cruise and Christopher McQuarrie, the second one with composer Joe Kraemer. We also get three very well handled featurettes starting with “When the Man Comes Around”, which covers plenty of ground from the adaptation process to that of the filmmaking. That is followed by “You Do Not Mess With Jack Reacher: Combat & Weapons”, which profiles the action set pieces and stunt work, and “The Reacher Phenomenon”, which features author Lee Child detailing his novel series and heroic creation.

Summary:

As far as all-out, thrilling escapist fare is concerned, Jack Reacher was one of the best offerings of last year. It also represents a triumphant return to the gritty, intelligent thinking person’s thriller, which is so unfortunately rare these days. Credit Tom Cruise and Christopher McQuarrie for crafting a terrific adaptation and Paramount for a magnificent Blu-ray presentation!

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