Adapting a beloved series of novels for the big screen is never an easy process. For every Lord of the Rings and Harry Potter there’s two Golden Compasses and, while the Jack Reacher novels aren’t beloved by tweens and don’t feature any dragons, magic or dwarves, they still deep in the camp of “things the fervent fans don’t want to see screwed up”.
All I can say is – bummer dudes. Jack Reacher is neither the film you wanted, hoped for nor dreamed of.
Reacher is the classic ’80s hero. A tough as nails ex-soldier (he served as a military investigator), a case that went sideways sees him give up his uniform and wander the States as a sort of one-man A-Team. Jack drifts from town to town, righting wrongs and defending the defencless.
The film’s story sees Reacher summoned to the bedside of an alleged spree killer, a maniac who went postal with a sniper rifle. He gets caught up in the investigation when the crazy lad’s lawyer (Rosamund Pike), begs him to help prove, if nothing else, that there’s more to the case than a nut with a gun.
It might shock you to hear just a little bit of probing reveals a dirty underbelly to the incident and from there the action, twists and horrible clichés come thick and fast.
For the die-hard fans of the Jack Reacher books the casting of Cruise was something of a slap in the face – given one of their beloved hero’s defining characteristics is being 6’5” and Mr Cruise… isn’t. However, unless the story hangs on the hero’s ability to retrieve something from a particularly high shelf (spoiler alert: it doesn’t) then it’s just not a big deal.
As the morally ambiguous, occasionally mumblesome lead, Cruise does a fine job. Whatever else can be said about him – and lawdy there’s a lot – he’s one of the most dependable actors out there when it comes to adding a little class to some action nonsense.
The supporting cast is great, with old hands Richard Jenkins, Robert Duvall and Werner Herzog as a particularly creepy crime boss all showing the younger generation exactly what great character acting is all about.
All-in-all though Jack Reacher suffers as much from its source material as it does from the script and film itself. It’s a cool idea played out in a corny, ’80s-throwback sort of way. For every chilling Werner Herzog moment there’s two where you want to cringe like you were watching McGuyver re-runs.
There’s a couple of decent action scenes and the plot isn’t mouth-breathingly stupid but beyond the big-name recognition, there’s really nothing spectacular about it.
Best left gathering dust on a high shelf.
Made in 2008 Nothing but the Truth is a well-made political drama that got caught up in some studio business wrangling, caught in limbo for a couple of years and has only recently seen the light of day.
Starring Kate Beckinsale, Vera Farmiga and Matt Dillon, the story involves a journalist for a prominent US newspaper who reveals the identity of a CIA agent, Erica (Farmiga), in an article about an alleged assassination attempt on the president.
The bureaucratic furore that follows sees the reporter Rachel (Beckinsale) taken to court to reveal her source. While she isn’t technically in trouble herself the person that revealed Erica’s identity is – governments being famously unforgiving on matters like treason.
What the film boils down to is how far the two sides are willing to go to defend their principles.
Will Rachel crack and give up her source so she can stay with her son and husband and out of jail. How far is government prosecutor Patton DuBois (Matt Dillon) willing to go in pursuit of a traitor. Will he willingly destroy the life of an essentially innocent woman?
Nothing but the Truth fancies itself a bit of a morality tale – while Matt Dillon’s lawyer is a bit of a vindictive git, his fevered crusade to find out who’s leaking secrets isn’t an unreasonable one. Neither is the point that, while Rachel’s principled stand is honourable, it could be considered a tad selfish to her husband (David Schwimmer) and son, not to mention Erica and her daughter.
This isn’t a “goodies v baddies” sort of flick. No matter how unpleasant the character might appear, their motivations are always a lot more realistic than “I’m a villain”.
A pity then that rather than fully engage in that side of the story, a bit too much time is spent on banging the audience over the head with the human fall-out of things – yes, we get it, cute kids get sad when mommy’s away. This leaves some of the fringe details of the story slightly rough and under-developed.
Despite this, Beckinsale and Farmiga give robust performances as tough, intelligent powerful family women – the sort so rarely seen in film or on TV. As good as the two are separately, the few scenes they share together are fantastic as the barely checked contempt crackles between them.
Dillon peddles a fine line in oily Southern charm and makes Dubois an unappealing character redeemed not because he’s somehow misunderstood but because he is, honestly, trying to do the right thing.
Whatever its flaws, Nothing but the Truth is still a well-made, compelling sort of flick that has a point and makes it well. It’s the sort of film that will leave you feeling a little bit smarter coming out than you did going in and, with few of them around these days, it really deserves at least a bit of a look.