Well, we had a good run. Tom Cruise was on such a good roll, so what happened?
Starting off with Oblivion in 2013, and subsequently followed up by Edge of Tomorrow and Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation, Cruise was crushing his way to action-star superstardom. Despite his lamentable role in Rock of Ages, his death-defying stunts in Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol were beginning to align with the courageous stunt work of Buster Keaton. Even when he did the first Jack Reacher, it was clear Cruise was ramping up for some insane body art on the silver screen.
After kicking the ever-living crap out of the film in Rogue Nation, Cruise has come back to the lesser of his action-man franchises, Jack Reacher. Jack is basically a poor man’s Ethan Hunt from the IMF movies, but the film is just another vehicle for Cruise to feature his trademark ‘run around a lot with intense focus’ moves. This was a bad decision on Cruise’s part. There’s no redeeming qualities about this second bat at Jack-base, save for plenty of bad jokes that are getting dropped.
Cruising On Impulse
Jack Reacher: Never Go Back follows, if one can even say that, hired-hand Jack as he must help clear the name of Turner (Cobie Smulders), an army Commander who is falsely accused of terrorism and murder. What he comes to find is a vast conspiracy that will ultimately lead back to his haunted past, and reveal secrets that even he didn’t know he had.
In as little hyperbole as can be given, Jack Reacher: Never Go Back is a terrible and godawful movie. It’s such a bad movie that it should be ranked amongst the worst that Cruise has ever, or hopefully, will ever do. This shouldn’t even qualify as a movie but a demo-reel of how not to shoot a film.
The first Jack Reacher was by no means a masterpiece, but was an exercise for Cruise to work with Christopher McQuarrie for the first time in the director’s chair. The two had made several films together as writer and producer, and this was a litmus test to see if they could work together to eventually make a Mission: Impossible feature. And what followed was Rogue Nation, yours truly’s favorite film in the IMF saga, and what I consider to be one of the best action-films of the 21st century.
The first film also had a stellar supporting roles filled by David Oyelowo, Werner Herzog, Richard Jenkins, Rosamund Pike, and Robert Duvall, all of whom give the movie the right gravitas for what essentially is just different takes at fist punching. It’s a solid and well-made film that is nothing to be ashamed of.
But shame should befall Edward Zwick, who picked up the director chair in McQuarrie’s absence. Having also worked with Cruise before on The Last Samurai, Zwick is no stranger to action, let alone properly framing conversations. The Oscar-winner had helmed such romantically violent pictures as Blood Diamond, Glory, Courage Under Fire, and Legends of the Fall. Zwick has captured plenty of set-pieces and is usually really capable of getting great performances out of his actors, but this is horrific. Actors are generic and bland and have no chemistry with each other whatsoever. The action, if it can be labeled that, looks as if it were choreographed just seconds before cameras rolled with no thought to how they would be edited.
The lighting in Never Go Back has the look of the budget of a mid-90s made for TV movie. Flat and non-dynamic, the sets look about as cheap as the dull white palate that cinematographer, Oliver Wood chose to shoot them on. Is it too much to ask for that for a major motion picture starring one of the most recognizable people on the planet to be at least somewhat sexy and attractive to look at? Apparently so.
Cruising For A Bruisin’
I love Tom Cruise, I really do. That was no lie when I said that Rogue Nation is one of the best action films of the millennium. That it happened to open a few months after Mad Max: Fury Road did it no favors, but it’s still an excellent action adventure that people should keep in the conversation. So Tom Cruise is a bit crazy, and about ten years ago acted like a fool by jumping up and down on Oprah’s couch, and called Matt Lauer glib for no reason. But if that’s the worst that he’s done, that’s not so bad for a Hollywood megastar. His Scientology beliefs are his own, and really it’s none of our business.
What’s really interesting, and what should’ve been utilized as a meta-construct in and about Never Go Back, is that there is a subplot involving Reacher’s possible bastard child, Samantha (Danika Yarosh). What could’ve made this interesting is that it would have been a commentary on Cruise’s relationship with his own daughter, Suri.
The very public divorce from Katie Holmes with Suri must’ve put a huge strain on Tom’s relationship with Suri, and the relationships with Reacher and Samantha could’ve been insightful; a plea and examination of Cruise’s fears of being an absentee father from Suri’s life. Instead, it’s a forced relationship in the movie that has no weight and is handled as clumsily as everything else.
When Cruise is running around getting shot at or coming up with ridiculous gadgets to avoid capture, he looks out of shape and breathy. It doesn’t help that when Cobie Smulders acts beside him, she is about as lifeless as Samantha is obnoxious. Another missed opportunity that might actually be unintentional arrives by way of Reacher’s nemesis, The Hunter (Patrick Heusinger). His character is metrosexual, the man, and a capable assassin in the world of meandering flatness. But as Samantha could a be a stand-in for Suri, The Hunter could have been a commentary about Cruise’s resurfacing homosexuality, and how he is always trying to outrun the stories of attractive men that are in hot pursuit of him, and vice versa.
But as the sun sets on this regrettable movie, at least Tom Cruise will back soon to run up and down the Burj Khalifa of our hearts and be strapped to transcendental airplanes that carry our minds to wonder.
Jack Reacher: Never Go Back is what one gets when the people who make make movies for a living care nothing about the material. It’s a real loss for the film world, as what should have been one of the best films of the year is easily one of its worst. There is nothing worth seeing here. Even the movie knows this and tries to turn away from the horrendous perils that lie within. Ye have been warned.
Who are your favorite Tom Cruise characters?
Jack Reacher: Never Go Back is coming to DVD and Blu-Ray in January 2017.
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