Tom Cruise, Rosamund Pike, Richard Jenkins, Robert Duvall. Action/crime drama. Written & directed by Christopher McQuarrie.
FILM SYNOPSIS: Jack Reacher, a mysterious figure who lives on the run from society, is a former military homicide investigator who finds himself digging deeper into a case involving a trained army sniper who shot five random victims. (We see the assassinations at the beginning of the film, and again through several flashbacks.)
PREVIEW REVIEW: Never before has a film been released at a more opportune time. Not for the studio or Tom Cruise’s production company, mind you, but for America’s consciousness. This film truly sends home the message that indeed the entertainment world has aided in submerging our nation into a culture of violence. We seem to feed on it.
If you’re not disturbed by the sight of a rifle scope trained on a child in her mother’s arms, then you’ve seen too many movies. That’s how Jack Reacher opens. A nutcase with a high-powered rifle takes position and fires seemingly randomly at unsuspecting people going about their day. The shots begin. People limply fall. Pools of blood gather beneath lifeless bodies. It’s only a movie. That makes it okay. Sure it does.
The premiere of the film had been canceled due to the time of this release, just days after the Newtown, Connecticut massacre. But the movie cost a bunch of money to make, so the studio will open it this weekend. And people will support it. A whole lot of people.
Based on a series of gritty novels, the lead character, played by Tom Cruise, is a low-tech shadow who owns only one set of clothes, moving from motels to flop houses, compulsively fleeing detection by authorities or anyone else. (You don’t get in contact with Jack Reacher. Unless he wants you to.)
With his Monk-like ability to take in a crime scene, he begins to doubt the captured killer is the right man. Aided by an idealistic lawyer (yes, they exist) and a gun range owner (Robert Duvall doing a good impression of Robert Duvall), Jack is soon hunted by the real killer and those who hired him.
I can point to many films that use violence to make a statement. And certainly stars such as John Wayne employed muscle and firepower to help us cope with the injustices of the world. Indeed, it can be argued that some violence in movies serves as a release for our frustrations. But there seems to be no limit to the amount of brutality now seen on the screen. From the gruesomeness of the Saw and Hostel torture porn to most action adventure films that rely on lifelike special effects when showing someone being hit by a car or graphically reenacting wartime atrocities, there is simply no limit to the amount of rampage, tumult and destruction we movie buffs will allow. Movies used to be in the business of illusion. Now moviemakers and the public in general, need realism. The gorier the better. How could it not be affecting our psyche?
In Clint Eastwood’s Unforgiven, the lead morosely confides that when you kill a man you take away everything he is or will be (paraphrased). It becomes clear that the Eastwood character no longer takes any life for granted. That film was made in 1992.
During the following years, not many filmmakers have taken responsibility for the excessive killing they put on the screen. In Jack Reacher, we get conversations about the dissection of bodies after they are tortured and killed, and in one scene a man is shot at point blank range, then the murderer brings out a surgical saw and approaches the corpse. In another scene, the film’s “hero” commits murder. He found it unforgiveable that others murdered, but somehow justified the act when he committed the same crime.
You’re going to get a lot of articles concerning violence in America (maybe not so much by the makers of movies as that could lead to the diminishing of show-biz coffers), but I’ve been speaking about the excess of movies for over 25 years. Here’s an excerpt from my book MOVIES: THE GOOD, THE BAD, AND THE REALLY, REALLY BAD:
Whether individual films have a detrimental effect on audiences has yet to be irrefutably proven, but it doesn't take a gaggle of psychologists to see that nonstop exploitive sexual images and brutal violence does exacerbate destructive behavior. As media commentator Michael Medved states in his provocative and insightful book Hollywood Vs. America: Popular Culture and the War on Traditional Values (Harper Collins/Zondervan, page 243), “The most profound problem with the popular culture isn't its immediate impact on a few vulnerable and explosive individuals, but its long-term effect on all the rest of us. The deepest concerns about Hollywood go beyond the industry's role in provoking a handful of specific crimes and involve its contribution to a general climate of violence and self-indulgence.”
Let's be honest with ourselves. We're way beyond the question, "Do the media affect our lives?" Many films stimulate our more carnal desires, while the Bible steadfastly maintains that it is the spirit that needs to be satisfied. The movies just aren’t about nurturing the spirit. Yet, the Bible says it needs to be. Philippians 4:8: "Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable - if anything is excellent or praiseworthy, think about such things." Psalms 101: "I will set before my eyes no vile thing." Ephesians 5:11: "Have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather reprove them."
Even Hollywood has indicted itself: “Your head is like a gas tank. You have to be really careful about what you put in it, because it might just affect the whole system” (from the film I'VE HEARD THE MERMAID SINGING).
Too bad we can’t send a message to Hollywood this time: that despite the well-produced, popcorn-munching pleaser this actioneer is, we moviegoers have had enough. We won’t go. Tom won’t miss any meals if the film flops. And the studios will recoup with the crude comedies I’m sure they’ve lined up for our entertainment pleasure this winter.
Because of my job, I have to attend many films that jolt the nervous system. I have to sit through films where the dead body count resembles the desensitizing amount found in countless video games. I have to watch this excess. What’s your excuse?