I’ve devoted many a post to Jack Reacher, the hero of seventeen (so far) Lee Child thrillers. I came to him in June 2008 with #12, Nothing to Lose, a book I found silly but couldn’t put down. A year later I read #13, Gone Tomorrow, and was hooked.
Not wanting to wait another year for a new novel, I decided to explore the backlist. Based on an old review of #9, One Shot, I ordered and read it a few weeks later. It was the best so far. Then I decided my remedial reading should be more systematic. That September, new Kindle in hand, I downloaded and read #1 and #2 in close succession.
For fear of overdoing it, I have slowed down the remedial program, getting to #3 only two years later. Meanwhile, Child keeps writing and I keep reading, taking me through last September’s A Wanted Man, #17. Not his best, but that’s forgivable after the peak of its predecessor, The Affair.
Which brings me to the first ever Reacher movie, still in theaters, the eponymous Jack Reacher. One can’t tell from the title, but it is adapted from One Shot.
Any fan of the books knows that their strength can’t be captured in a movie. Child is a master of plotting and suspense. A movie can duplicate that. But Child has also succeeded in creating a unique character, a mix of brains and brawn whose brains grow on you the more you follow his exploits. Reacher sees more than other people. He reasons better. And it’s a privilege to listen in on his thoughts. Which is the problem with putting him on the screen. He is likely to become just another action hero.
Plus, Tom Cruise? No Reacher lover wants Tom Cruise in the role.
On this basis, I was not going to see the film. But, things happen, and for reasons we need not go into here, I found myself celebrating MLK Day yesterday by heading downtown with Gail to meet and Jessica and Bryan for Jack Reacher‘s lone daytime showing.
It was okay. The less I thought of it as bringing Jack Reacher to life, the more I enjoyed it. I reminded myself that it was just another crime thriller—a violent one at that—but your basic thriller, reasonably acted. Except for Cruise, whom I didn’t find particularly convincing, and I don’t mean as Reacher, just as the hero who needs to hold the story together. He had a few lines that hinted at Reacher’s extraordinary reasoning skills, and enough fights to exhibit Reacher’s formidable physical gifts. But overall the character wasn’t fully formed. A.O. Scott was less kind in his NYT review last month: “The self-confident, supercompetent Reacher is a character Mr. Cruise could play in his sleep, which is pretty much what he does.”
The cast has two treats: Robert Duvall and Werner Herzog. (Yes, that Werner Herzog.) Herzog dominates one particularly gruesome but powerful scene.
The best news is that I’m in no danger of conjuring Tom Cruise when I read more Reacher novels. The world of the movie will remain disjoint from that of the books, whose enjoyment will be unspoiled. And if there’s a movie sequel, I might just pass it up. Unless Bryan and Jessica invite us again.