Jack Reacher: Never Go Back

Director: Edward Zwick (2016) BBFC cert: 12A

Tom Cruise returns as homeless hero Jack Reacher and the entertainment is as solid as the hero’s punches in this sequel to 2012’s action thriller.

The veteran superstar’s star intensity, physical presence and light comic ability raise this above the ordinary. Always better when playing opposite strong women, Cruise enjoys himself immensely being buffeted by a pair of sparky female costars.

Cobie Smulders plays a kick ass army major and the super confident scene stealer Danika Yarosh is a 15 year old street wise urchin. The three develop a fractious family dynamic which powers the film along in its quieter moments.

While on the run for murder the threesome must unravel a plot concerning corruption and conspiracy in the army. A New Orleans halloween party adds colour to the many fist fights and car chases.

Based on Lee Child’s best selling novel Never Go Back, this is a competent and enjoyable adaptation, but as a film it lacks the epic sweep of director Zwick’s other Cruise vehicle, The Last Samurai (2003).

There’s a patriotic defence of the integrity and symbolism of the US military uniform, references to the difficulties facing females in service and a discussion of gender roles in parenting. Which not many action movies attempt to do.

@ChrisHunneysett

 

Edge of Tomorrow

Director: Doug Liman (2014)

This blistering sci-fi spectacular sees Tom Cruise destined to fight the same battle over and over again.

Exciting and intriguing, it flares up with a charismatic cast, ferocious action, dynamite design and maze-like plot.

An alien species called Mimics have conquered mainland Europe and are ready to strike at London. They’re whirling dervishes of tentacles and teeth.

On the eve of a major retaliatory attack, Major William Cage (Cruise) is accused of deserting, dumped on the frontline and then caught in an alien ambush.

The brilliantly staged battle is filmed in a palette of blues and greys which channel the authenticity of Spielberg’s Saving Private Ryan (1998) – any other colour generally means something or someone’s on fire. (Cinematography Dion Beebe).

Aided by the rhythm of the editing (James Herbert, Laura Jennings), humour pierces the action like shrapnel.

Cage is killed in action but is shocked when he awakes fully intact back on the parade ground, the day before the attack.

Stuck in a time-loop he has to continually fight and die, learning each day how to survive a little bit longer.

Unlike the similarly structured classic Groundhog Day (1993), there’s no moral solution to the problem.

When Cage meets the famously tough and beautifully buff sergeant Vrataski (an excelllent Emily Blunt), he discovers she has had a similar experience.

Vrataski has learnt the aliens are responsible for the time-loop and that by destroying their hive mind, humans can win the war.

The lack of romantic chemistry between Cruise and Blunt works in the films favour as they form an effective team.

Bill Paxton is hugely entertaining as the swaggering Sergeant Farrell. He relishes every on-screen moment and turns them to his scenery chewing, comic advantage.

Cruise brings his usual intensity but makes Cage likeable by gamely being the punchline of many jokes.

Which is just one of many great reasons to watch this movie again. And again.

Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation

Director: Christopher McQuarrie (2015)

With the face-changing spy team returning to action for the fifth time, latex masks are once again the essential fashion accessory of the blockbuster season.

The evergreen Tom Cruise stars as Ethan Hunt, top agent of the Impossible Missions Force (IMF). It’s an enjoyable but fleetingly thrilling action adventure.

A terror network of former spies called The Syndicate are causing global chaos. Their elusive leader is the husky-voiced Solomon Lane (Sean Harris).

After escaping from a torture cell Hunt is injured and alone in London. But a US government committee has dissolved the IMF and bull-headed CIA boss Alan Hunley (Alec Baldwin) wants Hunt arrested.

Hunt has to round up his usual suspects, err, operatives Benji, William and Luther (Simon Pegg, Jeremy Renner and Ving Rhames) before tracking down Lane.

As they try to locate a data stick containing vital information, we’re offered chases, fights, assassinations, kidnappings, double-crosses and betrayals.

As the action bounces from Washington DC to Vienna and Morocco, there’s a night at the opera, an underwater break-in and a high speed pursuit through the desert.

Fistfights are surprisingly vicious but there’s no swearing or sex. Where British agent James Bond is rewarded with a kiss, Hunt receives a warm hug.

Swedish actress Rebecca Ferguson steals the film as agent Ilsa Faust. She’s an intelligent, tough and glamorous addition to the cast.

Baldwin tiptoes on the chasm of camp while Renner flexes his funny bone more frequently than his muscle.

Pegg and Cruise share a fraternal chemistry; they’re the Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis of international espionage.

Cruise is prepared to take a beating, smash a car, crash a bike and even hang off a military transport plane during take-off – just for your entertainment.

So it’s a shame he’s put overall control in the hands of workman-like writer/director Christopher McQuarrie.

A longstanding Cruise collaborator, they previously paired up to make the weak Jack Reacher (2012). And McQuarrie has further scripted the Cruise-starring Valkyrie (2008).

He’s also responsible for the scripts of the poor Jack the Giant Slayer (2013) and The Tourist (2010). Yet back in 1995 – the year before Cruise began the MI movie franchise – he won an Oscar for writing The Usual Suspects (1995).

Here his direction is rote not inspired. Action scenes are impressively staged on an epic canvas but fail to generate much tension.

With it’s great theme tune, glossy locations, outrageous stunts and glorious gadgets, the IMF owes a huge debt to 007 James Bond.

With Cruise having played Hunt for nearly twenty years and more times than most actors have played Bond, perhaps it’s time to refresh the MI franchise.

They should give the next mission to Ilsa.