Saturday, 12 January 2013
I've not read any of Lee Child's 17 Reacher novels so I came to this with an open mind. The title character (Tom Cruise) is as enigmatic as he is consistently dispassionate. I can't remember if I've ever seen Cruise in a film where no-one so much as kissed! This is a film about weapons, fists and fast cars - and little else. In some ways it's as though Sherlock Holmes has been dragged into the 21st Century.
There are echoes of films like Bullitt, French Connection and Dirty Harry as Reacher thinks and fights his way through the story. Essentially this is an organised crime thriller with the chief villain played by Werner Herzog - almost playing himself, except he's bitten his fingers off in this film! The way the plot unfolds and the way in which Reacher thinks his way through the problems are both incredible. He becomes the lead investigator for attorney Helen Rodin (Rosamund Pike) as she defends what seems like a hopeless case where the defendant is being prosecuted by her father the DA - who never takes on a case he can't win. Reacher likes a challenge and this time it's not a challenge of the heart.
If I were being cynical, I might suggest that this film and the lead character are propaganda intended to keep alive the myth of the American dream. Reacher is prepared to allow two wrongs to make a right - on more than one occasion. He is quick to employ a self-referencing moral code that is outside the laws others live by and to do so by calling it justice. In a film where use of weapons is commonplace, violence prolific and odd balls are addicted to the shooting range, should Hollywood be perpetuating the myth of this kind of hero? Oh I forgot, Reacher's not a hero and he tells us so in the film "You think I'm a hero? I am not a hero. And if you're smart, that scares you. Because I have nothing to lose." I can imagine that being said by the kind of loner with a love of weapons who goes on the rampage in a school. Is this film simply an observation of how dark our world can be or is it something that may for some encourage them further along their own dark journey?
And the whole thing is packaged as entertainment - that I colluded with and bought into. On one level the intellectual crime fighting was entertaining as was the constant question of whether or not the lead couple would get it together. It was also refreshing to see an urban landscape that wasn't New York, LA or Toronto. Overall the lone vigilante operating outside the law left me very uneasy. As an essay in ethics I wouldn't score this very highly. As a film I'll give it 7/10.