Last night, my eternally-un-named friend and I went to see the new Tom Cruise movie Jack Reacher.
I wanted to see it because the original novel was written by Lee Child, the pen-name of Jim Grant, a quiet, self-contained man I used to work with at Granada TV in Manchester. We were not friends; we just worked in the same department; and we have not kept in touch. But I knew him in a general way.
So I have an interest, but no personal axe to grind.
Jack Reacher was wonderful.
I was not expecting too much of it. Perhaps because of that, I was amazed at how good it was.
Quite a few reviews rightly praised the acting of German film director Werner Herzog who was cast as the terrifyingly icy villain. And some appreciated the always wonderful actor Robert Duvall. But Tom Cruise got little credit. Why?
I may be totally wrong, but I thought he may have partly based his Jack Reacher character’s apparent inner stillness on Jim Grant/Lee Child (who appears very briefly in the background of one scene as a police desk sergeant.)
Some of the reviews I read before seeing the film were rather lukewarm, rather grudging. Most seemed to carp on about how Tom Cruise does not look like the 6’5″ Jack Reacher of the novels.
Well, tough shit.
Sean Connery looked nothing like the English James Bond in the original Ian Fleming novels. Indeed, the Bond movies’ plots have almost nothing to do with the novels from which they nick their titles.
I have not read any of Lee Child’s 17 Jack Reacher novels but, if the plot of this first Jack Reacher movie bears any relation to the original book (One Shot) then ‘Lee Child’ writes bloody good books.
My eternally-un-named friend – often a Rom Com movie lover – and I had sat through a DVD of the appalling near-laugh-free zone that is Bridesmaids the previous night. When we came out of the cinema last night after seeing Jack Reacher, she simply said to me: “That was wonderful”. And it was, apart from a single bizarrely miscalculated scene in which Reacher throws away his gun and his advantage to have a macho fistfight… What was that all about?
The rest? Absolutely wonderful.
So why the grudging reviews? And why the constant sniping at Tom Cruise for being small?
It seemed a lot of the carping reviews were obsessed with the fact that, in the books, Jack Reacher is 6’5” and Tom Cruise is famously tiny. It didn’t make any difference to me, a non-reader of the books. He played ‘tough’ very effectively, just as he does in his Mission Impossible movies.
But, in any case, he is not actually small. He is 5’7″. The same height as Al Pacino, Robin Williams and Robert Downey Jnr… Are they small?
Daniel Radcliffe is 5’5″ and Emilio Estevez is 5’4; Jack Black, who played the large Gulliver, is 5’6″. Ben Stiller is 5’8″. Are they candidates for a re-make of Snow White and The Seven Dwarfs? I think not.
Perhaps people keep criticising Tom Cruise because he is so successful or perhaps because he is a Scientologist. Who knows? It makes no difference to his acting or movie producing ability.
All I know is that he is a good actor and a good producer.
You don’t get cast by directors Michael Mann or Steven Spielberg or Paul Thomas Anderson just for being a Big Name. You get cast for acting ability. And, in the pre-credit sequence of Mission Impossible III, he gives a virtual masterclass in how to act the whole gamut of emotions.
He also produced the four Mission Impossible films.
The first was awful (employing visual stylist Brian De Palma as director, then filling the movie with scenes of people talking to each other, sometimes over tables in dull rooms)… but Mission Impossible II was very good… Mission Impossible III was an utterly superb piece of film-making… one of my favourite films… and the fourth Mission Impossible was a return to the quality of the second film. Not a bad average.
I just hope Tom Cruise makes at least another sixteen Jack Reacher movies, even if he will be a bit long in the tooth by the end.
Perhaps, like James Bond, they will re-cast occasionally.
But, for the foreseeable future, I am more than happy to watch Tom Cruise be tall and macho and talented.