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Before we get to the video portion of this review, let's talk about the film itself. It received plenty of critical praise at the time of release (but a somewhat disappointing return at the box office), but I knew a number of people who refused to watch it because they were tired of seeing Tom Cruise in spy and espionage roles, or were simply tired of Tom Cruise overall. For them, the actor had reached a critical point of oversaturation, because not only did he tackle a number of similar roles, but he played them all in (mostly) the same way. "It's just Tom Cruise being Tom Cruise," they'd say. Even so, his recently filmography shouldn't be so easily dismissed. While there may be a lack of variety, Cruise does what he does very well, and that holds true in regards to Jack Reacher.
Based on the novel One Shot by Lee Child - which was actually ninth in the Jack Reacher series overall - the film begins with five people being killed by sniper fire in Pittsburgh. There's no doubt that the man behind this attack is a skilled marksman, but seeing as how a very clear fingerprint was left behind near the scene of the crime, it wasn't long before a suspect was placed in custody. James Barr, a former sniper with the U.S. Army, is only given two options: confess or end up on death row. He instead asks for Jack Reacher, who himself was a former U.S. Army Military Police Corps officer. But Reachet didn't need calling, because he went to Pittsburgh on his own shortly after seeing this story on the news. Upon visiting Barr, the suspect had already been savagely beaten into a coma by inmates. Needless to say, the timing of this and the fact that Barr was carelessly left out of protective custody isn't viewed as mere coincidence. So, smelling something foul from a mile away, Helen Rodin (Rosamund Pike), the District Attorney's daughter, wants to ensure Barr gets a fair trial. But Reacher clarifies that he hasn't shown up to save Barr, but because of some old history culminating with recent events, is actually there to bury him. As their investigation moves forward, it's clear that whoever or whatever truth they're getting closer to doesn't want to be found. Mystery, intrigue, and action intensify in the best possible way.
It's a straightforward plot with obvious bends and twists along the way to keep things interesting. But while the story has plenty of clever moments, that's not to say they're remarkable or even noteworthy. What really makes Jack Reacher a cinematic success is that Christopher McQuarrie - both the film's writer and director - clearly understands how to string people along. For example, before things literally start off with a bang, we view targets through the shooter's scope, hearing little more than his breath until he finally holds it to open fire. This moment is drawn out long enough to make us sit on the edge of our seats, but not so long that we get restless. From there, the drama is delivered equally slow and powerful to further sink the film's hooks into the audience, and they're subsequently reeled in by the tension that ratchets little-by-little. It all culminates to a few brilliant action set pieces which never feel out of place or knock the film's balance out of whack. I myself am a big fan of the slow burn, and Jack Reacher does a fantastic job of blending that technique with plenty of excitement… excitement which, by the way, is just as expertly crafted as the film's subtler notes.
If you've had hang-ups about Tom Cruise being in this film for whatever reason, you should really consider putting them aside to give Jack Reacher a chance. First and foremost, the film is more of a thriller than anything, and the actor brings a nice blend of confidence and intelligence with a Dirty Harry-esque twist to the table. The acting from everyone else involved is great too. Rosamund Pike's character begins with plenty of her own confidence, but the fear she displays as her world shatters around her is palpable. Robert Duvall doesn't enter until late in the game, but manages to be one of the most memorable players. Even Jai Courtney - who tends to be little more than serviceable in other projects - manages to add precisely what the film calls for.
Whether the Reacher franchise overall is worth visiting is another conversation altogether, as opinions have been mixed on the sequel. But the original stands well enough on its own that you shouldn't be disappointed if you take the ‘one and done' approach.
The Blu-ray release from 2013 was stellar and still holds up today, but this 4K disc from Paramount - encoded via HEVC at a resolution of 2160p with an aspect ratio of 2.35:1 - is still an improvement. It's not a night-and-day difference, mind you, but it's still an upgrade.
This film was finished at 2K, but as we've seen time and time again from UHD titles with a similar finish, it matters little. What does matter is how the film was shot and what aesthetic choices were made before finalizing it for the big-screen. Jack Reacher tends to either be dark or tinted in golden or blueish tones. While this can lead to minor upgrades in some shots, close-ups reveal considerably more detail in clothing and facial textures. Film grain is fine and preserved well without any compression issues, or at least any that I could see, so this disc is undoubtedly the most filmic presentation of Reacher we're likely to ever get. While Paramount may have stumbled a bit with 2018 discs like Grease and Forrest Gump (neither of which are awful, don't get me wrong), they seemed to hit a home run with Jack Reacher.
Back on color though, despite this movie going for a very specific look much of the time, there are moments where colors can pop, and when they do, they really do. Skin tones appear more natural than they do on the Blu-ray. An even better difference comes in the form of black levels, as there's more detail to be seen in shadows and otherwise dark areas. Contrast is quite good as well, although the visual aesthetic tends to mute it at times. Bright whites and lights are definitely brighter thanks to the implementation of HDR, rounding out a very well balanced picture.
If you don't already own Jack Reacher on home video, the 4K disc is most definitely the way to go. If, however, you already own the already excellent Blu-ray disc, the decision to upgrade will come down to how much you enjoy this film overall, or if you can find it at retail for $20 or less (which I'm sure you eventually will).
People seem to think that every UHD release requires an Atmos track these days, but if it isn't necessary, it isn't necessary. At least, that's my take. I like to angle for whatever the most accurate presentation of the source is, and that's precisely what we get with the 7.1 DTS-HD Master Audio track. It's the same as the Blu-ray provides, at least to my ears, but that's not a knock against the track. There's a lot of talking in this film so, of course, dialogue is always the priority. There's always environmental effects that subtly work their way into your ears from each angle, so you always feel you're on location. When the film intensifies, so does the track. The score swells and feels like it's coming from within your walls as opposed to speakers. Car enginges roaring during a car chase are robust and give an accurate depiction of what raw horsepower would feel like behind the wheel. Gunshots can ring out loud and proud, but they sound different depending on the type of weapon that's used or if there's a silencer (makeshift or otherwise), etc. The dynamic range is impressive, and everything is presented with depth and pinpoint placement. While it's true this film isn't exactly old, it's still a phenomenal sound design for a catalog release!
The UHD itself offers two commentaries, but the rest - which isn't much - are only available on the 1080p Blu-ray disc. It's a sparse collection that feels more in line with advertising than actual behind-the-scenes content, but the commentaries are substantial enough to make up for the loss of information in the video supplements.
-Audio Commentary - Composer Joe Kramer (Mostly isolated score with some interruption from the composer)
-When the Man Comes Around
-You Do Not Mess with Jack Reacher: Combat & Weapons
-The Reacher Phenomenon
Jack Reacher isn't exactly the best thriller out there, but fortunately, its predictable plot is completely overshadowed by solid drama, intense action, fantastic pacing, and great acting. For all the guff that Tom Cruise gets, he has an undeniable screen presence and excels with action sequences. With terrific performances from Rosamund Pike, Richard Jenkins, Werner Herzog, Jai Courtney, and Robert Duvall turned in, missing this film would be a big mistake. As far as this UHD release is concerned, the A/V presentation is top notch, although the upgrade may seem less substantial since the Blu-ray was already quite good. The supplements leave a lot to be desired, but overall, I can highly recommend this release.
-About the Author- Michael Zupan is primarily a film guy, but has a variety of places where you can enjoy his work otherwise. Check Bytesizeimpressions.com for video game op-ed pieces and podcasts, and be sure to check out the sister site, Byte-Size Cinema, linked up top. This writer also contributes significantly to in-print magazines such as Minecraft Explorer and Fortnite Explorer!