Jack Reacher, retired military police officer, drifter, and pro-badass, is asked by a deranged gunman to help him after shooting 5 random people in cold blood. But everything is not as it seems, and only Reacher can get to the bottom of this twisted tale of lies, violence, and the irrepressible will to be.
That is a consistent theme through the film; the will to exist and live out our nature, even when our nature hurts others. It is why, in my opinion, Werner Herzog signed up for a role. I think it's a very literary theme that probably would have been done excellently in the book upon which the film is based ('One Shot' by Lee Child, which I never read), and it still worked for me in the cinema.
What I really want to talk about is the performances. Tom Cruise was an odd choice as the title character, as Jack Reacher in the novel is only ever described as 6'5'', but I liked him. Cruise usually runs the risk of being too 'douchey' if I may take the liberty, and that 'douchey-ness' is what made Jerry Maguire such a pile of garbage; despite this, and despite the flippant insults his character spouts beginning to end, I still liked him, and I can't quite explain why. Werner Herzog is a wonderful, frightening screen presence in every scene in which he appears, and his thick Bavarian brogue gives the sort of depth and profundity you can find in his documentaries (despite the fact he's meant to be a Russian, work that one out). The let down is Rosamund Pike as the love interest. Her character 'Helen' is a film noir blonde bombshell, with daddy the district attorney and herself a struggling single female lawyer, and at one point sporting the noir belle trio of golden curls, trench coat and cleavage. All of that is fine, but she just cannot act. Any time 'Helen' appeared on screen, I genuinely wanted to chew my fingers off.
Visually the film is very good, and I suspect rookie director Christopher McQuarrie took a lot of advice from his DP, the much more experienced Caleb Deschanel. The opening establishing shots are very beautiful, so much so that we don't actually get any dialogue for the first five or ten minutes, and none was needed.
Jack Reacher shows a lot of potential. It's a lot of fun, we're given some great action sequences, the plot is interesting and engaging, but unfortunately it's a little inconsistent as a package. If you see it on DVD, stick around for the action sequences, make your tea and sandwiches when Helen and her dad appear on screen.