Tom Cruise has made a career out of pulling off high octane action-packed films which take reality with a pinch of salt.
Even ten years ago, audiences would have swallowed the explosions and the on-screen hyperbole without a second glance but the question remains, can our Tom pull off the same trick today?
Ever since 9/11, action films have had to take a long hard look at themselves, just in case they tread over that thin line between the credible and the ridiculous.
Luckily for Tom, he’s used to taking outlandish ideas and making them his own (Oblivion, Edge of Tomorrow) and it’s still true he has a screen presence which puts many of his peers to shame. This, in part, is why audiences still love him and why we are prepared to tolerate the ridiculous (the wing walking scene from the last Mission: Impossible movie, not to mention the underwater sequence in the same film, which, while he may have ‘performed his own stunts’, still smack of that kind of grandstanding, overstated bicep flexing we might otherwise associate with actors like Stallone and Schwarzenegger.
But while pulling off these great action set pieces, Tom somehow manages to maintain his ‘everyman’ status and he has enough acting skill to allow audiences the empathy they crave.
And so to his latest venture: the Jack Reacher sequel. Reacher (Cruise) is living off the grid (natch), embracing a nomadic lifestyle that allows him to move between low-rent motels as he brings down men and women in uniform who abuse their position.
En route to a face-to-face meeting with his successor, Major Susan Turner (Cobie Smulders), Reacher discovers that she has been accused of espionage (shock, horror!)
When associates of Turner are slain before they can testify, Reacher realises that he has stumbled upon a wider conspiracy involving overseas shipments of weaponry.
Against the odds, Reacher springs Turner from her high-security holding cell so they can expose corruption within the Army ranks, which could implicate retired General Harkness (Robert Knepper).
However, a tenacious assassin called The Hunter (Patrick Heusinger) is on their trail, flanked by violent henchmen, who will stop at nothing to silence witnesses.
In the midst of this taut game of cats and mice, Jack faces claims that a smart-talking teenager called Samantha (Danika Yarosh) is his daughter from a previous relationship. So far, so curveball.
Bullets ricochet, Jack communicates with his bloodied fists and must somehow keep Samantha out of The Hunter’s gun sights. Jack Reacher: Never Go Back simmers pleasantly thanks to the on-screen chemistry between Cruise and Smulders, the latter rolling up her sleeves to inflict bruises in the accomplished action set pieces.
Despite an illustrious career, one can’t help but feel we’ve yet to see the best from Tom but this is an enjoyable interlude.