Jack Reacher does not go looking for trouble, but trouble always seems to find him. If you have ever read one of Lee Child’s novels starring his iconic Jack Reacher character, then it is easy to understand why Tom Cruise would want to portray the character onscreen. A former military officer turned drifter, Reacher leads a simple life, one bound by his own moral code. He is not one for bureaucracy and, when the time calls for it, he can be more lethal than any weapon.
What is curious, however, is why Cruise and crew would choose to adapt Child’s Never Go Back novel to be his follow up to 2012’s Jack Reacher.
While Never Go Back is not a bad novel – it is a solid book though not as strong as some of the other Reacher stories like say Echo Burning – but rather it is a story that benefits from a more methodical pacing. This is something the film adaptation has no patience for.
The novel is centered around three concurring problems that Reacher finds himself juggling. There is the tale of military officer Susan Turner, a woman who Reacher has never met but has spoken to often on the phone, who finds herself charged for a crime she denies committing. In attempting to prove Turner’s innocence Reacher finds himself under investigation for a murder related to an alleged abuse dating back to his time in the military. The last hurdle is the revelation that Reacher may have a teenage daughter named Samantha, whom he never knew about. All of these things are balanced on a series of long cons that takes time to unfold.
Jack Reacher: Never Go Back feels more like a CliffsNotes version of the book, but one that neglects the key pieces of information that drives the narrative. While both the Susan Turner (Cobie Smulders) and Samantha (Danika Yarosh) storylines remain in the film, their truncated arcs never flow as smoothly as they should. This is especially true for the latter, as Samantha becomes a third wheel of sorts to Reacher and Turner’s fugitive on the run story. While it is clear that director Edward Zwick’s, reteaming with Cruise for the first time since The Last Samurai, intention is to draw out Reacher’s internal struggle about potentially being a father, the screenplay ultimately hinders the film. In making Samantha more prominent in the narrative, it takes away from the interesting and complex dynamics between Reacher and Turner. Furthermore, Samantha is reduced to being nothing more than an excuse for those chasing them to continually locate the trio’s location.
This ultimately takes away from the tension of many of the action sequences in the film. Since the villains are either generic henchmen or corrupt government officials who rarely get much screen time, Jack Reacher: Never Go Back lacks the edge of your seat thrills that it strives for. It is one thing to see Reacher take out two men on an airplane, it is another to see that same scene play out with the added understanding of the intricate cat and mouse game that Reacher and Turner have been involved in up to that point. Since the film takes so many shortcuts from a narrative standpoint, Jack Reacher: Never Go Back often feels like one is simply watching the film go through the motions without the full context.
While the film does not live up to the expectations that fans of Lee Child’s series will have going into it, the Blu-ray/DVD/Digital HD combo pack, which arrives in stores January 31st courtesy of Paramount Home Media Distribution, at least offers several interesting extras to soften the disappointment. The most exciting one being a Jack Reacher short story book entitled Everyone Talks, which features wonderful illustrations by Owen Freeman. The Blu-ray also features several solid behind the scenes featurettes where the likes of Cruise, Smulders, Zwick, Lee Child and more talk about bringing Reacher to the big screen. The best of which are Reacher Returns, which explores why this particular novel was chosen for adaptation, and Reacher in Focus: With Tom Cruise and Photographer David James, which shines light on the photographer’s wonderful visual eye.
Special Features include:
An Unexpected Family
Relentless: On Location in Louisiana
Take Your Revenge First: Lethal Combat
No Quarter Given: Rooftop Battle
Reacher in Focus: With Tom Cruise and Photographer David James