Film review: Jack Reacher (2012)

Tom Cruise has never won an Oscar. Not once. Not for Eyes Wide Shut. Not for Knight and Day. Not even for Mission: Impossible 2.

He has come tantalisingly close a few times. Like when he played opposite Oscar-scooping Dustin Hoffman in Rain Man. And when his first ex-wife, Nicole Kidman, won an Academy Award for donning a prosthetic nose to look utterly unlike Virginia Woolf in The Hours. Not to forget the time Cruise shouted ‘SHOW ME THE MONEY!’ over and over again, only to see Cuba Gooding Jr pick up an Oscar for shouting exactly the same catch-phrase in exactly the same film.

Close, but no Oscar.

Infuriatingly, Cruise even failed to pick up an Academy Award for portraying a man paralysed from the waist down in Born on the Fourth of July. Roles in which non-disabled actors play people with disabilities are usually an Oscar shoo-in. Think of the aforementioned Dustin Hoffman in Rain Man, Daniel Day-Lewis in My Left Foot, Al Pacino in Scent of a Woman, Tom Hanks in Forrest Gump, Jack Nicholson in As Good As It Gets, Colin Firth in The King's Speech, Jamie Foxx in Ray, and Eddie Redmayne in The Theory of Everything. Yet still no ‘And the winner is…’ for poor old Tom Cruise. He must have been kicking himself. (Metaphorically, in real life, I mean; not literally, in the movie, obviously.)

In a stroke of potential genius, however, Cruise more recently attempted to turn Oscar-contention convention on its head in the 2012 action thriller Jack Reacher. In this film, based on Lee Child’s novel One Shot, Cruise, an actor five-foot-seven-inches in stature, portrays the eponymous Jack Reacher, a peripatetic private investigator whose most notable feature is that he is six-foot-five-inches tall. Not that being five-foot-seven counts as a physical disability, you understand. But portraying an extremely tall man clearly pushed Tom Cruise's acting ability to the limit—which is exactly what he needed to happen, if he hoped to be an Oscar-contender.

Having a rather short man play someone approaching gigantism also conveyed certain dramatic benefits on the movie, not least in the fight scenes. At one point in the film, Reacher is challenged to a fist-fight by four hired ne'er-do-wells. Scaled up, each of these ruffians must be approaching eight-foot tall, adding considerably to their menace. Indeed, the whole fight sequence is reminiscent of Bilbo Baggins taking on the three trolls in 2012's other action-packed blockbuster, The Hobbit: an Unexpected Journey.

Reacher v troll

Reacher polishes off a troll with a well-aimed blow to the nuts.

All of which makes Tom Cruise's failure to secure even a nomination for best actor for Jack Reacher so utterly incomprehensible. It's almost as if the members of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences have something against not particularly tall people.

Yet hope springs eternal. Undaunted by the gaping void in his awards cabinet, Cruise returned to the role he had already made his own in this summer's sequel, the ironically titled Jack Reacher: Never Go Back.

It can only be a matter of time before Oscar recognition is finally conferred on Tom Cruise. Next February, surely…

Jack Reacher (2012): 7/10

Blimey, Nicole Kidman's let herself go!

Nicole Kidman

Lynch mob

Guardian: Mulholland Drive leads the pack in list of 21st century's top films
BBC Culture poll of 177 film critics around the world puts David Lynch’s 2001 surrealist masterpiece in top spot.
Mulholland Drive

What planet do these so-called film critics live on?

Does Captain America: the Winter Soldier make their Top 100? Does it bollocks! How about Avengers Assemble? Take a wild guess. Any sign of the Jason Bourne films? Enjoy your egg whites.

Jen and I bought Mulholland Drive when it first came out on DVD. We bought it mainly because film critics kept describing it as a masterpiece. We watched it once, then filed it on the Crap shelf next to Moulin Rouge and Mission Impossible 2.

To be honest, I don't remember much about the film—apart from thinking it was incomprehensible crap. There was some woman who thought/pretended/wished she was some other woman. And I think she and the other woman then swapped identities (or something like that). And there was a scene in a diner, I think (or perhaps I'm thinking of Pulp Fiction). And there was (very, very briefly) a totally unconvincing monster. And there was a scene where two pretty ladies kissed each other in a restaurant for no readily apparent reason (see above). In fact, I distinctly remember that bit because: a) it was the only good bit in the film; and b) the photograph of the two pretty ladies kissing each other is the only still you ever see from Mulholland Drive.

OK, so, admittedly, every year or so, I tentatively suggest to Jen that maybe we should give Mulholland Drive a second chance. It's supposed to be a sodding masterpiece, so maybe the problem was with us. We then mull my suggestion over for a couple of seconds before agreeing naaaaah! and reaching for Master and Commander: the Far Side of the World (a genuine masterpiece, by the way).

I mean, if you want to watch an art-house movie with two pretty ladies kissing each other, watch Carol: that's a bloody wonderful film.

I haven't asked her, but I'm pretty sure Stense will disagree with me fundamentally on the subject of Mulholland Drive. She tends to understand and appreciate arty-farty films; I'm just a simple country boy living in Hebden Bridge.

So, what do you chaps reckon? Do you think I should give Mulholland Drive another go? Or would I be better off sticking with Skyfall?

Beam me up, Luke!

In preparation for Star Trek Beyond screening at Hebden Bridge Picture House tomorrow, Jen and I are re-watching the two previous films in the relaunched franchise. And great fun they are too. In amongst episodes of The West Wing, we also recently re-watched the original Star Wars trilogy.

The problem is, Jen keeps getting Star Trek and Star Wars mixed up in her head. “Is this the one with Benedict Cumberbatch as a baddie?” she asked at the start of The Empire Strikes Back. “Have they just gone to warp speed?” she enquired, as the Millennium Falcon finally shot off at light speed. And so on.

To be honest, I'm not entirely convinced Jen is really getting the two franchises mixed-up. I more than half-suspect she's trying to play Jedi mind-melds on me.

 

Watching ‘The Bourne Identity’ with my dad...

Dad: Did she just say she was Mr Kane's pregnant sister?
Me: Personal assistant.

My super-hero name

Last night, I dreamt I went to inspect my handiwork in a palatial, L-shaped room that I'd stripped of wallpaper the previous day. To my dismay, I discovered that, while I had been away, someone had re-papered the walls and ceiling with a hideous, embossed Anaglypta. The re-papering, I realised, bore all the hallmarks of the Incredible Hulk.

Passing down a long passageway, I came to a door behind which I could hear voices talking. I knocked and entered, only to discover that I had interrupted an earnest conversation between Tony Stark/Iron Man (played by Robert Downey Jr), Bruce Banner/The Hulk (Mark Ruffalo), and Natasha Romanoff/Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson). All three were wearing civilian clothing, rather than being ‘suited up’ in their super-hero garb, but it was obvious even to me that some dire emergency was afoot.

Clearly wishing to get rid of me, Tony Stark informed me that he needed my help on an important mission. He handed me a small metal container, about the size of a tin of shoe polish, but without any of those stupid twisty things on the side to help you open them. As you might expect from the creator of the Iron Man suits, the container looked indescribably cool in gleaming, gun-metal grey—although I was secretly a bit disappointed that he hadn't thought to throw a little hotrod red in there before he got Jarvis to render it. Tony explained that he was supposed to be cooking an extra-special paella for all the other Avengers, Nick Fury, and the senior agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. that evening, but that he was now in a bit of a rush, so he needed me to get started on the rice. He had, he said, already made some of his extra-special chicken stock, which I would find simmering in the kitchen. All I had to do was introduce the stock a few spoonfuls at a time into the rice, the requisite amount of which I would find in the cool, metal container. At this point, Natasha Romanoff gave one of her secret little smirks and made her excuses to leave before the only ‘girl’ present was also roped into cooking duties.

I looked down at the cool, metal container in my hand, thinking that it couldn't possibly contain enough rice to go round—especially if Dr Banner transformed into the Hulk—but Tony Stark assured me that the rice was a very special form of genetically modified rice invented by Stark Industries, and that there would be plenty enough for all. So, I headed off to the kitchen to make a start on the paella. And then I woke up.

Our superheroes eating

I don't think helping Tony Stark to cook paella for his super-hero friends and S.H.I.E.L.D. colleagues quite qualifies me for enrolment in the Avengers Initiative, but I do now at least know what my own super-hero name is:

The truth is, I am Rice Man.

Fade to black. Sound of wind blowing across ocean.

Jen and I have just returned from our annual jaunt to Anglesey. While we were there, we took the opportunity to recreate the haunting final shot from one of our very favourite films.

Compare and contrast:

Two ships

The view from the headland at Bull Bay, Anglesey last Monday.

Two yachts

The closing shot from Master & Commander: the Far Side of the World (2003).

We shall beat to quarters! Quick's the word and sharp's the action! Never mind the manoeuvres, just go straight at 'em! etc.