Tom Cruise is an event. Something has happened to his career in the last half decade, some sort of weird alchemy, where he doesn’t star in films: he stars in Tom Cruise films. The presence of Cruise is something that elevates a concept as simple as turning a summer read into a movie that people will go see, explosions at all. Jack Reacher: Never Go Back isn’t quite so lofty as 2012’s Jack Reacher, but Cruise and Reacher both ignore their own title’s advice and we’re all the richer for it.
Retired military policeman turned full-time drifter Jack Reacher (Cruise, Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation) travels to his former base to visit Major Susan Turner (Cobie Smulders, Avengers: Age of Ultron), only to find that she has been arrested for treason. Realising she’s been fitted up, Reacher breaks her out of prison and goes on the run with her and a girl who could be his daughter (Danika Yarosh, TV’s Heroes Reborn), trying to figure out who put Turner in the frame so that they can be brought to justice.
The point of Jack Reacher is that he’s not connected to anyone, and that he likes it that way. The title Never Go Back indicates that Reacher is betraying the core of his character, and the film itself reflects this. Where 2012’s Jack Reacher had a man with a very tenuous connection to the situation at hand coming on to the scene and getting in the way of the carefully laid schemes of one Werner Herzog, Never Go Back outfits him with a surrogate family. This instantly renders the film more standard-issue than one that didn’t even bother to give him a love interest, but for the most part it doesn’t get in the way.
Cruise is good as ever, and there’s nothing particularly boastful about his performance, nor an incongruity between his size and his action. Smulders brings a touch of sitcom elegance to the pseudo-family dynamic while also conveying a no-nonsense personality. The support cast and villains are serviceable without being intrusive, but it becomes clear that they’re not who we’re here for.
Director Edward Zwick (Pawn Sacrifice) covers Never Go Back in a reserved style without flash, but with explosions, and one particularly egregious employment of slow motion. His script, cowritten with Marshall Herskovitz (Love & Other Drugs) and Richard Wenk (The Magnificent Seven), is detailed without being intricate and hits many of the right buttons, its only real glaring flaw being the tacking on of an additional act after the story has been resolved.
Jack Reacher: Never Go Back isn’t quite so singular a movie as the first one, succumbing to a few more genre clichés than it should, but Cruise is a man who justifiably still has fans, willing to follow him to undemanding, better-than-average genre fare.
Jack Reacher: Never Go Back opened in Australian cinemas on October 20, 2016.
Directed by: Edward Zwick.
Starring: Tom Cruise, Cobie Smulders, Aldis Hodge, Patrick Heusinger and Danika Yarosh.