By Patricia Ducey. You need to stop humming Hugh Jackman’s showstopping tunes and puddling up – especially in grocery lines. You’ve also just realized that Tehran isn’t Paris – and that no matter how glamorous foreign service looks, it’s probably a good thing you “forgot” to follow through on that State Department job app all those years ago. Plus, you’ve just run out of chocolate-covered candy canes and leftover champagne and have nothing for dinner.
Yes, the holiday parties, the fall movies – Life of Pi’s fantastical 3D journey to enlightenment, Ben Affleck’s paean to the unsung heroes at the CIA and State Department, and the glorious Les Misérables (triumphant over some febrile staging) – they have been rich and tasty this season, but humdrum January is approaching, real life, and you need something or someone to snap you out of it.
And Jack Reacher is just that guy.
Because Jack Reacher is a “ghost.” He’s a cool – as in, “ice-in-your-veins” cool – ghost, and he’s a loner. You don’t know how he got this way but it probably has something to do with his military service. You may find out if there are subsequent films. Or, if you’re a purist, you could read the books. But that might ruin the fun.
Adapted by writer/director Christopher McQuarrie from author Lee Child’s One Shot (from the Jack Reacher series, which I have not read), and produced by Tom Cruise, this old fashioned mystery thriller is fun — and delivers just enough mayhem and clever plotting to keep all but the most jaded critics on board. McQuarrie, who burst upon the Hollywood scene as the screenwriter of the witty, unconventional The Usual Suspects and is now a Cruise collaborator (2008’s Valkyrie, possibly the forthcoming Mission: Impossible 5), delivers another clever whodunit here with plenty of fresh twists and turns, humor, and even a mysterious super-arch fiend, a la Keyser Soze, to keep you interested.
The story is set in gritty, noirish Pittsburgh and opens with a mad sniper in a parking structure across the river from the Pirates’ baseball park picking off five random people. A SWAT team of cops, decked out in full military swag, arrive at his precise location quickly but futilely – the sniper is long gone. But Detective Emerson (David Oyelowo) swiftly retrieves the cartridges and fingerprints and assorted evidence – and a mere 16 hours later sits, smirking, across from suspect James Barr along with the D.A. That was easy! The suspect listens in despair as they tick off the mountain of evidence against him. He reaches for the typed confession to sign; but as Emerson and DA Rodin (Richard Jenkins) smugly congratulate themselves on their slam dunk, Barr writes “Get Jack Reacher” on the dotted line instead of his signature. And off we go.