Apparently, there are 17 Jack Reacher novels By Lee Child. I've read 4 of them, but not the one ("One Shot") on which this movie is based. I've enjoyed the novels and when I heard they were making a movie I was interested. Then I heard that Tom Cruise was going to play Reacher and I was less interested. It's not that I don't like Tom Cruise, I do. It's because I didn't really see how Cruise could pull off the Reacher character. The trailers I saw weren't much help. But I read a good review, so we went to see it.
#1) The Jack Reacher in the books is an ex-military cop who wanders, seemingly aimlessly, around the country, because this is what he wants to do. He owns no property, doesn't have a drivers license or any credit cards and no luggage. They do a great job in establishing this is a few short scenes. But he's still a cop and he can't stop getting himself involved when he sees an injustice being done. He doesn't feel like he has to explain himself to anyone. He'll ask for help when he needs it and he'll offer help even if its not asked for. He doesn't form attachments. When the job is done, he's gone.
#2) In the books, Reacher is always underestimated because of the way he seems, self-effacing and mysterious. But he is supremely confident in his abilities and people who need him, and his enemies, come to realize this, although his enemies tend to take a bit longer, usually too long. In the movie, Reacher is easily underestimated because, well, he's kind of short. But once the confrontation starts, once the chase starts, once Jack is fully involved, Cruise does a great job of convincing the audience that he is, indeed, Jack Reacher.
#3) It was obvious early on that the movie had gotten #1 and #2 right. I was afraid that the plot would be a let down. As you've probably heard, the movie starts off with a seemingly random shooting on a busy street. Five random people are gunned down. The clues all point to one guy, an ex-Army sniper. There's key plot point here I don't want to give away but when they arrest the guy, he refuses to talk. When given an opportunity to sign a confession, he writes one thing "Get Jack Reacher". From there the story unfolds as a series of puzzles to be solved. Who is Jack Reacher? What is his connection to the shooter? Was the shooting really random? Why did the shooter put a quarter in the parking meter? Between fist fights and car chases, Jack answers these questions in an enjoyable manner.
In addition to Cruise, there are a couple of other good casting choices. Rosamund Pike plays Helen, the accused shooter's lawyer. She hires Reacher to be her lead investigator. I liked her a lot. She's been in a lot of movies but the only one I saw with her was "Surrogates" with Bruce Willis. I think she was his surrogate wife. Robert Duval is also in it as a crusty old Marine. Duval should own the license on crusty old guys.
Two more things, in a lot of action movies the hero takes an unbelievable amount of punishment with no real consequences. The action in this is mostly believable. Nobody is climbing the outside of mile high buildings. A movie like this also needs some humor and I thought the humor here was very understated but drew some laughs from the audience.
There is a scene late in the movie where the character who is helping Jack says, we have to get the sniper shooting so we can see where he is. Jack says how can we do that. The guy says well, you can start running. The scene reminded me of this article at Cracked.com.