Jack Reacher is the first cinema outing for Lee Child's iconic Jack Reacher, the hard-as-nails drifter who wanders America (and occasionally elsewhere) kicking ass and taking names to protect the innocent and generally do good. The books are a long-time favourite of the Empire office, each new instalment greeted with the sort of enthusiasm generally reserved for a junkie's latest hit, and we even had Lee Child come in and talk us through the franchise. But how will Christopher McQuarrie and Tom Cruise handle it on the big screen? Here's the first trailer to give us a taster - and Reacher expert Chris Hewitt to talk us through it...
We begin with the sound of an engine - something to which some Reacher fans have objected, for reasons we’ll get into later. But it’s clear why the Paramount trailer bods went with this: a revving engine always suggests tension and cool in spades (see also: Drive). And it’s building to something.
This is Pittsburgh, the city where Jack Reacher - formerly known as One Shot, of course - was filmed. In the book, the city where the action takes place is never identified, but Reacher does say it's in Indiana, a bus ride from Indianapolis. It’s not yet known if Pittsburgh is formally identified in the film.
This is James Barr, the man around whom the film’s plot hinges. He’s the prime suspect in a deadly sniper attack that kicks off the film, leaving several people dead in what seems like a senseless mass slaying. Barr, a former army sniper and something of a deadbeat, is quickly arrested and seems bang to rights. Then something surprising happens: he asks for the help of one man - Jack Reacher, a former MP who has a history with Barr. A history that makes him seem like the last person on Earth who would get Barr out of a jam like this.
Some interesting points here: Barr is played by Joseph Sikora, last seen as one of the Russian Mafia being given the runaround by The Stath in Safe. He’s seen here in a hospital bed, which indicates that the film follows the book in making Barr the victim of an almighty shoeing in prison. And his speech here is a damn sight more than he says in the book, where he simply demands, “Get me Jack Reacher.”
And, as you do with any good cinematic icon, we get to meet Jack Reacher in a flurry of brief, enigmatic shots, mostly from behind, as director Chris McQuarrie cranks the movie myth-maker all the way up to 11.
The first shot we see is Reacher taking off his shirt to reveal an old scar, a pitted wound on his chest. Reacher fans will know this is a gunshot wound, sustained when the sheer force of Reacher’s pectoral muscles stopped a .22 calibre bullet from killing him. Yes, you read that right. FYI, that happened in Tripwire, the third Reacher book.
Then we get a quick glimpse of the ugly abdominal scar that Reacher sustained on duty in Beirut, when an explosion sent the jawbone of a slain officer flying into Reacher’s stomach. The incident happens off-page, as it were, in the Reacher books, but is often alluded to as proof that Reacher is the hardest man alive.
This is the back of Tom Cruise’s head. Or rather, Jack Reacher’s head. He’s on his way to a pawn store. Just the sort of place where Reacher - who, now that he’s retired from the army, travels across the States with nothing but a passport, some cash and a folding toothbrush - can pick up whatever it is that he needs. Particularly, for example, guns.
“He doesn’t care about proof. He doesn’t care about the law. He only cares about what’s right,” says Barr. And here Reacher proves it, by smashing some poor unfortunate’s head into a wall.
“He knows what I did. He can’t protect me,” muses Barr, perhaps in reference not just to the sniper attack (of which this seems to be the aftermath, with people running away in a dire panic), but an earlier atrocity on his CV.
Now Reacher reaches for the gearstick of a car. One Shot fans will know that Reacher does an atypical amount of driving in this book. Seems to be the case here, too. And off he screeches, in what looks like a red Mustang. Again, fans of the book will know that this belongs to an ally that Reacher picks up on the way. Those self-same fans have questioned the trailer’s emphasis on Reacher’s driving skills, when Lee Child often makes clear that Reacher is not a particularly gifted driver. Their fears that Reacher is suddenly going to turn into Vin Diesel may well be unfounded, though.
In the same shot, we get our first confirmation that this is, in fact, Tom Cruise. As Cruise’s name pops up, a guitar riff kicks in that is highly reminiscent of the Mission: Impossible theme tune. It’s actually Young Men Dead by The Black Angels.
“You think I’m a hero?” asks Reacher. “I’m not a hero.”
As if to prove it, we get a flash cut to a hot girl in a bikini walking across a room, while someone reclines on a bed and watches her. It looks like it’s Reacher. We reckon this is where we first meet our hero, doing some handiwork (and some handy work) down in Florida. This Norweigan dancer is just another notch on Reacher’s bedpost. Or would be, if he owned a bed. Or some posts.
Here, Reacher is taking on a bad guy - possibly a henchman of the movie’s ultimate villain, Werner Herzog’s The Zec - in the pouring rain. He’s doing so in typically ruthless Reacher fashion. It’s possible that this henchman is played by Jai Courteney, the Aussie actor soon to be seen as John McClane’s son in A Good Day To Die Hard, but it’s hard to tell, frankly.
In another shot, as the voiceover intones, “And if you’re smart, that scares you…”, Reacher takes out another disposable ruffian.
For a man who’s used to saving the world in his action movies, there had been concerns that the world of Jack Reacher might be a little small for Cruise. Action-packed though they are, they tend to be quite focused stories, usually pitting Reacher against a small group of very bad men (and, occasionally, women). There’s little in the way of huge set-pieces, massive explosions or scenes where something gigantic crashes into something even more gigantic. This shot seems to indicate that the scale of One Shot may have been beefed up to suit the status of its star, but we suspect that it’s about as big as One Shot gets.
Here, Reacher proves that he’s as deadly with a rifle as he is with his fists. Aficionados of Child’s creation will know that much of One Shot’s plot revolves around sniping prowess - both Barr's and, incidentally, Reacher's own. In the books, he's the only non-Marine to have won the Wimbledon Cup - an award for sniping rather than tennis, fyi. The last line of Reacher’s voiceover is a nod to the title of another Child book: “Because I have nothing to lose.”
The trailer concludes with several shots from a sequence that Empire has already seen in its entirety, a scene where Reacher, enjoying a quiet drink at a bar, suddenly has to contend with the fake advances of a girl (Sandy, played by Alexia Fast) and her even more fake indignation at Reacher’s rejection. That leads to five guys inviting Reacher outside for a gentlemanly discussion, interspersed with some oof-ing and argh-ing. As you can see in this condensed version of the fight, it doesn’t go well for the five guys, leading to Reacher striding towards the camera before striking a typically low-angle heroic pose.
With nary a hint of the film’s plot - there’s no sign of key players Rosamund Pike, Richard Jenkins, David Oyelowo or even Herzog - this is a fine teaser that does what it needs to: tell those who haven’t heard of Jack Reacher that there’s a film coming called Jack Reacher, in which Tom Cruise plays Jack Reacher (and that Jack Reacher is a badass); and perhaps partially assauge the doubts of Reacher fans who may have struggled to see Cruise in the title role. We await the next trailer with interest.