Certificate 12A, 118 minutes
Director: Edward Zwick
Stars: Tom Cruise, Cobie Smulders, Aldis Hodge
Jack Reacher: Never Go Back is the sequel to Jack Reacher and is based on the book Never Go Back by Lee Child. It opens with local law enforcement pulling up outside a diner, where there are four men lying on the ground, all rather the worse for wear. According to the witnesses, this was all done in a matter of seconds by one man, who is still inside the diner. Drinking coffee.
The man in the diner is Jack Reacher (Tom Cruise). The local sheriff (Jason Douglas) arrests Reacher and is ready to cart him off to jail when he gets informed that he will shortly get a phone call from a military major and then he will himself be arrested by the Military Police. This all happens as Reacher says; it appears that the sheriff and the four men outside had been doing something illegal and, unfortunately for them, they did it on land owned by the U.S. Army. Reacher is now free to go.
Credit: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Jack_Reacher_Never_Go_Back_poster.jpgFollowing this, during Reacher's travels across the country, he speaks on the phone to Major Susan Turner (Cobie Smulders), who assisted in the arrest of the sheriff earlier (this is not actually how the two first spoke in the books; they originally spoke on the phone during 61 Hours, which was then followed by Worth Dying For and A Wanted Man, before coming to the events of Never Go Back). Major Turner is the commander of the 110th Military Police, Reacher's old rank and command - and she also has his old office and old desk, which still has a dent in it that Reacher apparently caused with someone's head. Over the course of their phone calls, Reacher eventually offers to take the major out for dinner.
Reacher eventually reaches Washington, D.C., and arrives at the headquarters of the 110th. When he asks to be shown to her office, instead of Turner he finds a Colonel Morgan (Holt McCallany). The major has been arrested for espionage, after a hard disc drive containing top secret information was found at her home and is in Fort Dyer awaiting court martial. Morgan is the interim commander of the 110th during this process. Given some roundabout information by Sergeant Leach (Madalyn Horcher) of the 110th, who has spoken with Reacher on the phone, seems to respect him and doesn't seem to believe that her boss is guilty, Reacher goes and sees Turner's lawyer, Colonel Moorcroft (Robert Catrini).
Although the initial meeting doesn't go well - and Reacher finds out that he's the subject of a paternity suit for a fifteen year old daughter, Samantha (Danika Yarosh), as well as the fact that Turner doesn't want to see him - a second meeting reveals that Turner was arrested the day after two of her investigators were murdered in Afghanistan. Which can't be a coincidence. Reacher also discovers that he is being followed by employees of a private military contractor, and also goes looking for his possibly-daughter. Who is kind of a hard case herself.
Unfortunately for Reacher, Moorcroft is killed not long after seeing him, and he is arrested for the officer's murder. When he says that he is a civilian, and that the crime happened under civilian jurisdiction, Colonel Morgan reactivates Reacher's commission and sends him to Fort Dyer himself. In there, Reacher escapes and takes Turner with him, as men had been sent to murder her. Turner didn't want Reacher to get involved, because she thought he would insist on getting himself involved. Which, of course, he did - fortunately for her as it turns out.
Turner had been investigating missing decommissioned arms in Afghanistan, which is what the two soldiers under her command were doing when they were killed. Presumably, someone didn't want to investigate any further. Somewhat reluctantly, she teams up with Reacher in order to find out what is really going on and who is behind this. The added vulnerability of a potential daughter has its own problems for Reacher, as the most skilled of the people chasing after them, the unnamed "Hunter" (Patrick Heusinger) is perfectly willing to go after her, and kill her, just to get to Reacher. This involves the three of them basically going on the run whilst they also do their own investigation, whilst the military police are also hunting them down - one of whom, Captain Espin (Aldis Hodge) of the 110th, has a bit of a pre-existing grudge against him. Plus they don't know who to trust.
During the film, Reacher commits a lot of his signature mayhem, with very few of the people he goes up against proving to be much of a threat. Indeed, the only one who does really match him is "the Hunter" and it is only against him that he doesn't always come out on top. Given that there are a large number of action scenes, and quite a bit of, sometimes rather bloodless, violence, it's a shame that they aren't better. The action sequences just don't seem as good as they could be, being a little on the hectic side and it's not always possible to clearly see what's happening. There are some also, kind of disorienting, sort-of flashbacks when Reacher considers how something played out. Presumably this is intended to show that Reacher is capable of analysing things, but it doesn't' work like it should.
Most of the bad guys in the film don't get enough screen time to be seen as characters - indeed, most of them are simply redshirts. Even the major bad guys don't get any real character development, not even the Hunter, who of them all appears the most. He comes across as a fairly one dimensional person who really just enjoys killing things, without developing him at all. Really "good" bad guys are much better developed. The only true characters in the film are Reacher, Turner and Samantha, and it is the interactions between the first two and the latter which are the most interesting. Reacher is not what you would consider to be paternal, yet he comes to see some of himself in Sam.
This is quite a long film, but it still feels like bits are missing - and, indeed there are, such as the sixteen year old homicide that Reacher had been accused of in the book. Even considering this missing plot strand doesn't really account for the rather disjointed feeling that watching the film gives, which may be due to there being a lot of changes made to the storyline, not just the one mentioned. Things seem to oddly jerk around a bit; yes, you can tell what's going on, but the story really doesn't seem to flow as well as it should. Overall, the film suffers from jerky action sequences, a plot that doesn't flow like it should and too many one dimensional character. Jack Reacher: Never Go Back is an okay film at best, but really, not as good or as gripping as the book is and something of a disappointment.