Movie Review: “Jack Reacher: Never Go Back”

Starring
Tom Cruise, Cobie Smulders, Danika Yarosh, Robert Knepper, Patrick Heusinger, Aldis Hodge
Director
Edward Zwick

One of the main reasons why “Jack Reacher: Never Go Back” is an invigorating sequel is because it doesn’t share a whole lot in common with its predecessor. While Christopher McQuarrie’s lean and muscular thriller didn’t dig very deep into its titular character, director Edward Zwick’s film raises plenty of questions about the former military man. Zwick, a filmmaker known more for dramas than popcorn thrillers, brings his personal touch to the series based on Lee Child’s popular novels while also producing an impressive crowd-pleaser.

Jack Reacher (Tom Cruise) is still drifting, traveling from town to town with a few dollars in his pocket. As the opening establishes, though, the former major isn’t done helping people in need. He also still has some ties to the military, like Major Susan Turner (Cobie Smulders), who often works with Reacher, but only over the phone. After the two develop a friendship and respect for each other, they make plans to meet when Reacher travels to Washington D.C. Once Reacher arrives in the nation’s capital and enters her office, however, he discovers that Turner is facing accusations of treason. Reacher doesn’t buy it, and he’ll do whatever he can do to prove her innocence.

Part of what’s great about McQuarrie’s film is that Jack Reacher is already Jack Reacher. He’s not at a moral crossroads. He knows right and wrong. He knows who he is. On the other hand, what’s so appealing about Zwick’s film is that we get to see Reacher start to ask questions about himself. We learned more about Reacher through action in McQuarrie’s movie, and this time around, screenwriters Richard Wenk, Marshall Herskovitz and Zwick place some of those actions under a microscope. There’s an inherent sadness to the character’s way of life; he has no real personal connections. “Jack Reacher: Never Go Back” often likes to take its time to truly show what kind of effect that life of solitude would have on someone.

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Coming Soon: A Moviegoer’s Guide to December

It’s no secret that Hollywood saves some of its biggest guns for the end of the year, and between all the awards season hopefuls and holiday blockbusters, there’s an entire arsenal of exciting movies coming to theaters this December. While Kathryn Bigelow, Tom Hooper and Quentin Tarantino duke it for Oscar honors with their newest films, “Jack Reacher” and “The Hobbit” promise to deliver pure escapist entertainment. The only thing missing is a big red bow, because this is the ultimate present for film lovers.

“HYDE PARK ON HUDSON”

Who: Bill Murray, Laura Linney, Olivia Williams, Olivia Colman and Samuel West
What: The story of the love affair between FDR and his distant cousin Margaret Stuckley during the weekend in 1939 when the King of England visited upstate New York.
When: December 7th
Why: Bill Murray is notoriously picky about choosing scripts, but not even he could turn down the chance to play Franklin D. Roosevelt, which practically comes with an Oscar nomination attached to it. All kidding aside, Murray is actually a pretty inspired choice to play the wheelchair-bound 32nd President, especially because Roger Michell’s film appears to be much lighter for a story that takes place during such a harrowing period in history. While it’s unlikely that “Hyde Park on Hudson” will garner the same awards recognition as 2010’s “The King’s Speech” (although the two movies would make a perfect double feature), it’s hard to imagine that it will disappoint with such a solid cast.

“THE HOBBIT: AN UNEXPECTED JOURNEY”

Who: Martin Freeman, Ian McKellan, Richard Armitage, Andy Serkis and Hugo Weaving
What: Bilbo Baggins journeys to the Lonely Mountain with a vigorous group of dwarves to reclaim a treasure stolen from them by the dragon Smaug.
When: December 14th
Why: After years stuck in development hell due to the MGM bankruptcy crisis, the most anticipated prequel to come out of Hollywood since “The Phantom Menace” is finally arriving in theaters, although not exactly in the way that most people were expecting. For starters, Peter Jackson is back in the director’s chair after Guillermo del Toro cut his losses to work on other projects (and really, it’s for the better), while two movies have now become three after the decision was made to turn “The Hobbit” into its own trilogy. Though I’m not exactly sure how Jackson plans to do that (especially when Part One, subtitled “An Unexpected Journey,” will reportedly run 160 minutes long), that doesn’t make me any less thrilled about getting the chance to revisit Middle Earth all over again.

“ZERO DARK THIRTY”

Who: Jessica Chastain, Joel Edgerton, Kyle Chandler, Chris Pratt and Jason Clarke
What: A chronicle of the decade-long hunt for al-Qaeda terrorist leader Osama bin Laden after the 9/11 attacks, and his death at the hands of Navy SEAL Team Six.
When: December 19th
Why: The last time director Kathryn Bigelow and writer Mark Boal got together, they made the superb military thriller “The Hurt Locker,” which went on to win six Oscars, including ones for Best Picture, Best Director and Best Original Screenplay. The pair has reportedly been working on a movie about the hunt for Osama bin Laden for quite some time – so long, in fact, that they had to completely rewrite it after the al-Qaeda leader’s death in 2011 – but if there’s one film with the potential to outdo their last collaboration, “Zero Dark Thirty” is it. Though the movie is clearly much larger in scope than “The Hurt Locker,” with a lot of moving parts and an incredible ensemble cast too big to list here, if Bigelow and Boal get it right, this could be the movie event of the year.

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