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Jack Reacher - Never Go Back: Tom Cruise Good, Cliched Script Bad
Adapted from the pages of Lee Child's eighteenth novel in the Jack Reacher franchise, Never Go Back comes four years after Christopher McQuarrie's relatively well received Jack Reacher; a movie, regardless of its somewhat predictable and flawed premise, was largely considered an entertaining and above-average crime-thriller. Unfortunately, its 2016 sequel, an action-packed but terribly derivative story of the we-must-uncover-the-truth-and-break-a-load-of-bones-in-the-process variety, doesn't for make for as good viewing.
Set four years after the events of the first film, the story is once again centred on the ex-military police officer, Jack Reacher (Cruise); a perpetual loner and a man of few words who hitchhikes from town to town, stumbling on corruption and crime which he usually resolves with one smouldering look and a pair of deadly fists.
After doing so in the movie's opening sequence, Jack soon makes contact with Susan Turner (How I Met Your Mother's Cobbie Smulders); a woman who has taken over his former position at the Virginia-based military unit and with whom he has, over time, formed a close - and relatively flirtatious - relationship with.
However, when Reacher decides to surprise her with a visit, he soon learns that Turner has been arrested on what appears to be, fake espionage charges. With the case naturally falling right in his field of expertise, Jack soon sets out to uncover the truth and, oh yeah, break a few bones in the process.
While many fans of Lee Child's series of paperback thrillers – it seems that the British author has been churning them out once a year ever since its beginning in 1997 - are still a little stuck-up about the fact that Tom Cruise – a man of five-foot-and-seven-inches – has been cast to play a man who is his physical opposite. But you have to hand it to Cruise; regardless of his now aging physique, he once again proves why he's paid the big bucks.
However, while the presence of Tom Cruise - who embraces his character with enough stoic bravado and fighting skills to give Jason Bourne a run for his money – elevates the film, the same cannot be said for the flimsy and often uneven storyline that surrounds him. Attempting to offer a profounder insight into Jack Reacher's history and life - hinting that he is in fact a desperately lonely man who is looking for a deep and soulful connection to another human being - Zwick's ill-conceived script, along with a combination of cheap one-liners, and awkward comedic tone and weak action set pieces, is not strong enough to carry its own weight.
Lacking momentum and a presence of an intimidating villain - Heusinger's cold-blooded killer who refuses to take his gloves off is as exciting as watching paint dry - Never Go Back doesn't know what it wants to be and even though, fans of the series won't be too disappointed with the end-result, those with little patience might not want to stick around whilst it figure it out.
What can you say about the seemingly unstoppable force that is Nicolas Cage that hasn’t been said before? A magnet for the most troubled, muddled and just generally exasperating films to hit cinemas in the last five years, his latest work in USS Indianapolis: Men of Courage does nothing to change his fortunes.
Despite being based on one a true story that has all the makings of a war epic, the Mario Van Peebles-directed USS Indianapolis bleeds all and any gravitas and emotion out of its incredibly dramatic source material.
The story goes as thus: the eponymous US Navy cruiser delivered the first parts of the atomic bomb that would go on to devastate Hiroshima, before being torpedoed by the Japanese navy, leaving some 300 of the 1000-plus crewmen dead and the rest stranded in shark-infested waters. Said sharks, along with dehydration and salt water poisoning, leave just over 300 survivors to be rescued.
At the centre of the ensuing hubbub is Cage’s Captain McVay, who many, very unreasonably, blame for the death of the 700 or so victims – so you see, it’s a very complex story, but one that very quickly descend into and exercise on how not to make a war film.
The occasional laughable CGI aside, Cage is oddly sedate, bordering on placid, in his role – yes, the central character is possibly the flattest element of the film, while seasoned actors, Tom Sizemore and Thomas Jane, are given little to chew on in their respective roles.
While starting exactly as one would expect a war film to, the wreckage part of the film turns into cheap disaster movie, before turning into a courtroom drama in the final act. It’s a muddle of a film that fails to really drum to the beat of McVay’s potentially brilliant arc as a firm commander that eventually buckles under the unjust pressure he receives back at home.
Bad CGI, a mammoth two hour-plus running time and Nic Cage can be forgiven, but what’s at the heart of this film’s mess is the script. Jumping from event to event, plotline to plotline, at a whim, with Cage’s soft murmured speech used to pave over the transitions, USS Indianapolis’s pacing is that of a film hurrying to stuff as many ideas and threads as possible – expect that’s not the case. Van Peebles tries so hard to build the layers of an epic, when, actually, all he needed to do was tell this simple but stirring story as it is.
On the surface, Robert Zemecki’s slick and a technically pristine WWII-set romantic-espionage-thriller looks like a winner. Boasting an impressive cast and a script by Peaky Blinders’ Steven Knight, everything about Allied points to success. However, although visually striking and overall satisfying in terms of action, it’s the film’s central story - the romantic pairing between Mr. Pitt and Ms. Cotillard – fails to ever really get going, leaving the film a little hollow and difficult to invest in.
Set in 1942, the story begins with the introduction of Canadian intelligence officer, Max Vatan (Pitt), who finds himself on a mission in Morocco with French Resistance fighter, Marianne Beausejour (Cotillard), who is to play the role of his wife during a covert operation that involves assassinating a high-ranking Nazi official. After successfully carrying out their assignment, the pair’s pretend relationship soon turns into the real thing with the duo soon marrying and welcoming a baby girl into the world, as they settle in war-torn Britain.
However, things are soon turned upside down for Max when he is informed by his by-the-books boss, Frank Heslop (Mad Men’s Jared Harris), that Marianne is currently under investigation and that she, in fact, may be a Nazi spy. Given seventy-two hours to prove her innocence before he will need to kill her, Max soon sets out on his own investigation.
Aesthetically, the film embraces an old-Hollywood approach, with a certain sense of nostalgic glamour and elegance present through the minutes. Told through a wonderfully slick lens frequent Zemeckis collaborator, cinematographer Don Burgess, there's a certain style and sophistication to every single frame. But while the film is pleasing to the eye and Steven Knight’s script boasts plenty of moments of suspense and intrigue, there‘s a serious lack of heart missing from the story, which turns the more passionate moments into melodrama.
In addition, the romance between the two leads is never really sold. Both Pitt and Cotillard definitely look the part and when they are not onscreen together, their performances are affective. However, it’s when they share the screen and viewers are asked to buy into their love story that it all goes south. Allied is a functional and an effective WWII spy thriller. It’s just not as captivating or engaging of a romance-drama that it sells itself to be.