Back in 2012, Tom Cruise captivated our eyes with his portrayal of Lee Child’s Jack Reacher. Giving us an intricate mix of action, adventure, suspense and a touch of love, the original Jack Reacher quickly became a fan-favorite. This year, Jack is not the same Reacher we saw four years ago — but that's not exactly a bad thing.
Four years ago we saw a hardcore Jack Reacher unleash his inner Bourne, this year we see a side of him that is not often explored in the action movie: the down-to-earth daddy.
Warning: Mild spoilers for Jack Reacher: Never Go Back to follow.
The film begins with Reacher doing what he does best, almost as if it’s an actual continuation from where we last saw him in 2012. After putting two cops in jail, we then see Reacher do something strange. He starts to flirt, the very serious way. Major Turner (Cobie Smulders) has won his heart, and he travels to Washington DC to make it official. What he doesn’t expect, on top of a conspiracy involving Turner, is that he supposedly has a daughter. This completely changes the movie's trajectory.
I came to the theater expecting Reacher to search for clues and come to conclusions in very similar fashion as in 2012. But from the start, Jack Reacher: Never Go Back packs a surprising turn of events as we find Jack Reacher in an entirely new roll — trying to maintain a family.
Jack Reacher, Dad Of The Year
Samantha (Danika Yarosh) is the know-it-all teenager with an attitude, and with "parents" like Turner and Jack, it's clear that the apple didn't fall far from the tree. Seeing two atypical military elites going through the motions of a normal family — like feasting on a meal of burgers and soda — this sitcom doesn’t fail to remind us that it’s not supposed to be, well, a sitcom.
This state of familial bliss is not exactly how we remember Jack Reacher, so I was unfazed by the audience’s laughter when the trio were a happy trio in scenes that were clearly not supposed to be funny. However, the direction in which Never Go Back went, was not necessarily bad for the following reasons.
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The movie gave us a decent amount of action, but on top of explosions and a badass Smulders, it also gave Jack a new side to his story. Sequels in the action genre generally try to double the amount of “action” from the original film. In blatantly refuting this stereotype, Never Go Back allows audiences to get to know Reacher beyond simply being a fighting machine, and instead as a multi-faceted character. In effect, a possible third installment now can add a new aspect to the action genre: audience connection.
A New Definition Of Action
We generally go see an action movie because we want to see something go “boom” or someone get beat, badly. We want action, and lots of it, effectively making the storyline secondary. Jack Reacher: Never Go Back flips that notion on its head, with the story taking center-stage while the action is in the background. While the first installment did that to some extent, this sequel is the perfect example that a great action movie doesn’t always have to concentrate on the action. Drama can also exist. And this drama is why Jack Reacher: Never Go Back is this year’s best family movie.
Not only does Never Go Back embrace the importance of family and the relationship between a father and his daughter, it actually brings families to theaters. Right in front of me were a couple who brought their children, who I would wager were younger than 10 years old, to the screening. Not too far from us was another couple who had brought a baby. There was even one happy duo who didn’t even buy seats for their little ones; the kids sat on their laps, or on the floor. And the pattern continued.
While parents bring their children to a movie largely considered unsuitable for children, either because there was no babysitter or another reason, happens frequently, the fact that Never Go Back capitalized on the family concept actually makes it okay for them to be there. Director Edward Zwick was somehow able to reign in the violence and make it more suitable for younger audiences. We don’t see a guy’s neck break or an arsenal of bullets having a party for at least for a good 50 minutes of the movie. That being said, it's not without some bloodshed, so it still won't exactly be for everyone.
Personally, I’m excited to where Reacher goes next. Smulders demonstrated that she has the caliber to carry a movie and I hope that she returns for a third installment. Nonetheless, I also want to see Rosamund Pike return. Seeing Cruise as Jack Reacher, the family guy, was a fun twist that added a new layer to the character. His fatherly instincts were not, as the internet says, “100,” but it shows that he is still a human being who is capable of making mistakes. The funny thing is, he was never the real father.
Did you enjoy Jack Reacher: Never Go Back? Let me know in the comments below!