This week’s new movie releases, including Jack Reacher and Safety Not Guaranteed
JACK REACHER (USA/15A/130mins)
Directed by Christopher McQuarrie. Starring Tom Cruise, Rosamund Pike, Richard Jenkins, Werner Herzog, David Oyelowo, Jai Courtney, Vladimir Sizov, Joseph Sikora, Michael Raymond-James.
THE PLOT: “Who the hell is Jack Reacher?” asks more than one bewildered individual here, but everyone soon learns that the man is an off-the-radar ex-military cop who, yep, doesn’t mind breaking the law in the name of justice. Even when it means coming to the defence of an ex-Marine, Linsky (Raymond-James), who previously got away with a daylight massacre. Now in a coma, it would seem Linsky is now responsible for another massacre, one in which seemingly random people were gunned down by a lone gunman.
The fact that so many clues point to Linsky has Reacher smelling a rat, and so he goes Zapruder on this grassy knoll crime scene. With a little help from chesty blonde defender Helen (Pike), who just happens to be the daughter of the District Attorney (Jenkins). It quickly becomes obvious that there’s skulduggery afoot. The questions being, who’s behind it, and how high does this patsy play go…
THE VERDICT: It’s significant that this is the first movie in a while to have Tom Cruise alone on the poster, following the spectacular
meltdown spearheaded by his ill-conceived raving heterosexual turn on Oprah way back on May 23rd, 2005. Has the world forgotten, and forgiven? Cruise may be slowly rebuilding his career, but, even with his own production company involved here, there’s still a second poster that takes the Ghost Protocol route of also featuring the key supporting cast. Hey, it worked for last year’s Mission: Impossible; Ghost Protocol, Cruise’s first bona fide hit since 2002’s Minority Report, and his first blockbuster since 2000’s Mission: Impossible II. Still, how much of Ghost Protocol’s box-office was the franchise branding and how much was the leading man’s star power?
This adaptation of One Shot, the ninth of 16 Jack Reacher books by British TV veteran Lee Child (the first having appeared in 1997) is clearly an attempt to kickstart a new franchise for Cruise, and if this was 1992 instead of 2012, there’s little doubt our Tom would see his wish come true. Jack Reacher is a no-nonsense, old-school Rainier Wolfcastle-meets-Jason Bourne actioner that boasts a no-nonsense, old-school performance from Cruise, a fine panto baddie turn from a foggy-eyed Herzog, and some magnificent heaving chest work from Pike (think Paltrow with likeability and body fat). Oh, and you’ve got Richard Jenkins in there too, just to prove that this slick Hollywood production has at least some class.
Like Ghost, Jack Reacher will be released the day after Christmas, a real turkey shoot in box-office terms, given that all the critics and all our critical faculties are still on holidays. We’re all so keen to get the hell away from the relentless goodwill, we’ll welcome anything that doesn’t have bells on it.
Still, Cruise probably won’t sleep till the new year.
Review by Paul Byrne
SAFETY NOT GUARANTEED (USA/TBC/86mins)
Directed by: Colin Trevorrow Starring: Aubrey Plaza, Mark Duplass, Jack Johnson
THE PLOT: Magazine writer Jeff (Jake Johnson) takes interns Darius (Aubrey Plaza) and Arnau (Karan Soni) with him on an assignment to find out more about a man who placed a classified ad seeking a companion for time travel.
Ah time travel; while the idea may go through phases of being used in cinema, it is still one that fascinates audiences. Each of us are curious about our futures and fixing things that went wrong in the past, and this is exactly the area that Safety Not Guaranteed plays on.
Since her mother died, Darius has been introverted and quiet, but as she forms a relationship with Kenneth (Mark Duplass) she opens up to him, and finds a person that she can actually relate to. Aubrey Plaza has made a name for herself playing the caustic, sarcastic but actually kind of sweet April in Parks and Recreation. Darius is not very different to April – so Plaza is not exactly stretching herself – but there is nothing wrong with that. Plaza does what she does best and the audience finds themselves rooting for this withdrawn but sweet character.
It would have been easy for Mark Duplass to play Kenneth as simply unhinged, but there is a lot more going on here. Duplass has proven, especially in 2012, that he is an actor that can turn his hand to almost anything – comedy in TV’s The League, drama in Your Sister’s Sister and writing in Jeff, Who Lives at Home – and he manages to play Kenneth as a man who has always been removed from those around him, and is desperate to find a human connection. Duplass and Plaza work incredibly well together as their mutual awkwardness draws them slowly together.
THE VERDICT: The supporting cast are just as good as the leads; Jake Johnson plays a man who has built up a wall of bravado only for it to come tumbling down, and Karan Soni is great as an introverted man child who is dragged into adulthood by Jeff. As well as this, Kristen Bell makes an appearance as a lost love.
With Safety Not Guaranteed, writer Derek Connolly plays with the idea of regrets holding us back. Each of the characters has something in their past that is stunting their growth through life, and each of them comes face to face with this during the course of the movie. As well as this, there is a charming love story and a silly but fun sci-fi story that branches out into the realm of spies, conspiracies and stolen lasers.
Director Colin Trevorrow has coaxed sweet and gentle performances from his actors, added some silliness and a couple of montages and made a warm and well rounded story about the lengths we go to to hold on to the past. Yes, there are questions that are not answered – such as what is the story with Kenneth’s ear? – but these do not detract from the story as a whole.
Safety Not Guaranteed is a time travel film that is not about time travel, instead it focuses on human relationships and the hold that our past can have over us. That said, the film is warm and fun… Like a hug.
Review by Brogen Hayes
FALSE TRAIL (SWEDEN/16/130mins)
Directed by: Kjell Sundvall Starring: Peter Stormare, Eero Milinoff, Rolf Lassgard)
THE PLOT: When a woman is murdered in northern Sweden, a detective is sent from Stockholm to try and solve the case. What he finds when he arrives, however, is a town living in fear, but is it fear of the police or the man who (supposedly) committed the crime?
False Trail (Jargana 2) is a long awaited sequel to the 1996 movie, Hunters. The good news is that viewing the original is not essential to following the story of False Trail. There has been a slew of Scandanavian thrillers of late – including the fantastic TV show The Bridge – but False Trail is not one of the few that will distinguish itself from the many.
The story starts out well and appears to be heading towards a whodunit type scenario, but the elongated running time means that by the time the audience is finally told whodunit, they have already figured that out and lost interest.
THE VERDICT: Rolf Lassgard resumes his role from the original as detective Backstrom, and he, along with Peter Storemare as Torsten, creates a strong back and forth as they debate and argue about who did what and why. Sadly, Stormare’s strong performance is totally undermined in his final few moments on screen as the character disintegrates from a strong, brutish bully into a man who would rather run away from his problems than face them. Stormare is better than this, but he is let down by lazy writing.
Eero Milinoff could have been the great villain of the piece, but instead he is reduced to leering at people from under a mane of greasy hair. Annika Nordin, however, seems to be the most rounded character of the lot; a strong woman who is living in fear but is sure that clever use of her sexuality will save her in the end.
Director Kjell Sundvall builds the tensions and intrigue throughout the first half of the film, only to let is trickle away in the second. After the false ending, everything is so clearly spelled out and predictable that the audience may be left wondering why they are watching the film, since they can already guess how it is going to end. The original film was wildly popular on home turf, but this sequel is surely a let down to fans of the franchise.
False Trail could have been one of the great, if underrated, crime thrillers to emerge from Sweden. Instead, the film is bloated and a little self indulgent with strong performances descending into over the top cowardice. There are some good moments in there, but not enough to save the film from itself.
Review by Brogen Hayes