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