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Non-Review Review: Jack Reacher – Never Go Back

It is a strange experience, to watch one’s action hero icons grow up.

Tom Cruise is approaching fifty five years of age, although Jack Reacher: Never Go Back convincing places his character in his “mid-forties.” Watching the film, this feels entirely reasonable. Cruise is still a lean, mean, action-film-making machine with a dynamism that would put many younger stars to shame. If Tom Cruise isn’t in peak physical condition, he cannot be far off. Watching Never Go Back, it is not Cruise himself that gives the game away. The leading man is as limber as ever, energised at just the thought of another impressive stunt sequence.

You know where to Reacher me, if you have to.

You know where to Reacher me, if you have to.

It is the memory of Tom Cruise that gives the game away. Studies suggest that the peak age for cinema attendance is still somewhere between eighteen and forty. Tom Cruise would have been headlining films long before many modern movie-goers started attending the cinema with any real frequency. From Risky Business to Legend to Top Gun, Cruise has been a cinematic fixture for over three decades. That is a remarkable accomplishment, serving as something of a cultural constant.

For most of its runtime, Never Go Back feels very much like a middling demonstration of Cruise’s action movie bona fides. Like Jack Reacher, this is a standard actioner without the confident direction that has elevated Tom Cruise’s best work of the past few years. However, Never Go Back comes alive in those fleeting moments where it brushes against the idea of its leading man facing adulthood, positioning itself as a weird movie about a nineties action movie hero who inexplicably finds himself saddled with a makeshift family.

Literal life line.

Literal life line.

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12 Movie Moments of 2012: Running (Shame)

As well as counting down the top twelve films, I’m also going to count down my top twelve movie related “moments” of 2012. The term “moment” is elastic, so expect some crazy nonsense here. And, as usual, I accept that my taste is completely absurd, so I fully expect you to disagree. With that in mind, this is #8

It is quite common to see New York presented in an unpleasant light. After all, Martin Scorsese’s films capture the metropolis at its very best and its very worst, and there are countless gangster films devoted to exploring the dark underbelly of a city that is easily one of the most recognisable in the world. I have never been to New York, and yet I feel like – through years of film-watching – I have come to know the city almost as if I have lived there.

As such, I was surprised when Shame managed to offer me a somewhat novel take on New York itself. The city is as much a character in the film as any of Steve McQueen’s supporting cast. (Indeed, Carey Mulligan even gets to perform an extended version of “New York, New York” in tribute to her co-star.) McQueen manages to craft a distinctly unpleasant and uncomfortable exploration of the city without resorting to any of the trite clichés that one associates with the horrors of urban living.

Indeed, one long single-take shot of Brandon running within the confines of the city offered a more powerful sense of urban anomie and isolation than I have ever seen before, presenting a cold blue city completely indifferent and unaware of the millions of people living within the city limits.

shame11

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Non-Review Review: Jack Reacher

Much like its eponymous leading man, Jack Reacher is efficient. That’s probably the best thing that can be said about this adaptation of Lee Child’s One Shot. Coming in at two hours, the movie manages to keep everything relatively under control. Any fuzzy logic is masked by the smart decision to keep things moving at a quick enough pace, distracting from the fact we’ve seen it all before, or that the characters seem especially paper-thin. At times, Jack Reacher suffers from being a little too shallow, a little too safe, a little too predictable. While Christopher McQuarrie can be an excellent writer, he seems to be only developing as a director. He handles movement reasonably well, but the direction amps up the melodrama to almost unbearable levels at certain points in the film.

It’s not terrible, and it’s certainly not an out-and-out failure, but I’d struggle to argue that it’s a successful franchise launch. For most of its runtime, Jack Reacher succeeds at merely being inoffensive and trying not to weigh too heavily on our patience. It’s not the most convincing of victories, but it could have been a lot worse.

Gearing up for a franchise...

Gearing up for a franchise…

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