Jack Reacher: Never Go Back
It’s a damning indictment of blockbuster standards when a thriller should be singled out not for being good, but for being competent, and for making sense. Too often, a studio picture of a Jack Reacher equivalent will prioritise trailer-worthy jawbones and explosions over coherence. Indeed, this happened with the first film, which had a lot of people doing things – running, kicking, driving cars and occasionally crashing them – with the reason “why” as irrelevant as Tom Cruise’s height. But Jack Reacher: Never Go Back, while not flawless, is a serious step up for this burgeoning franchise. It has the hard boiled, page-turning efficiency of Lee Child’s novels: no-nonsense desert island reads that have a keen grasp on suspense and character.
Cruise is back as Reacher, the ex-military drifter-cum-investigator, who plays like a mix between Jason Bourne and Philip Marlowe. Having established his fearsome reputation in the first movie with a lot of absurd dialogue that made Reacher sound like an invincible Chuck Norris, Never Go Back sets out to humanise this figure, to downplay his perfection with some well-chosen foils. After helping her catch a corrupt sheriff, Reacher befriends Major Susan Turner (Cobie Smulders) over the phone. Their flirtatious conversation comes to an abrupt end when he discovers she has been arrested by the army on suspicion of espionage. Reacher’s own reachings soon get him into trouble too, when he is arrested for murder; the two find themselves on the run, under pressure to resolve a government conspiracy (what else?) to do with arms dealing.
Few elements of Never Go Back are fresh, but they’re presented in such a modest way that it’s difficult to resist them. A parallel storyline centres on Samantha (Danika Yarosh), a 15-year-old girl whom the military police claim is Reacher’s daughter. He doubts it, but when she joins him and Turner on the run to form a makeshift family, he begins to soften, and reflect on the cost of his solitary profession. The dialogue here is refreshingly free of snark, what little humour there is emerging naturally from the characters. And there is a simple, old-fashioned charm about the action beats: developments are geared towards making the climax – which happens during a parade, no less – work as a satisfying conclusion.
Jack Reacher: Never Go Back shouldn’t be exemplary, it should be the standard. But this franchise deserves praise for its wholehearted improvement. Roll on Jack Reacher 3.
Jack Reacher: Never Go Back is released nationwide on 21st October 2016.
Watch the trailer for Jack Reacher: Never Go Back here: