Movie reviews

Jack Reacher (12A) opens with the murder of five civilians by Iraq War sniper veteran James Barr (Joseph Sikora).

When Barr is quickly tracked down by Pittsburgh PD detective Emerson (David Oyelowo), the case against him seems cast-iron, but Barr requests that Emerson and the District Attorney Rodin (Richard Jenkins) send for Jack Reacher (Tom Cruise), a former military MP who once investigated Barr for multiple homicides in Iraq. Can Reacher, working for Barr’s defence attorney Helen Rodin (Rosamund Pike), prove the innocence of a man he knows to be a cold-blooded killer?

Adapted from the best-selling novel One Shot by Lee Child, and directed by Christopher McQuarrie, Jack Reacher is a thriller that works on a number of levels. A fast-paced tale full of twists and turns, it allows Cruise play a kind of private eye, with the full quota of laconic quips and comebacks we expect from such characters, while action fans will get their kicks from the various fist-fights, car chases and shoot-outs.

The story also functions as an exploration of the nature of justice itself, however; neither Reacher nor Helen Rodin are convinced of their client’s innocence, neither are particularly naïve when it comes to the workings of the US justice system, and yet both are adamant that due process must be served on behalf of a man who cannot defend himself. It’s an intriguing blend, and Cruise appears to revel in the role of avenging angel: “I’m not a hero,” he warns one opponent, “I’m a drifter with nothing to lose.” Part Dirty Harry (1971), part Shane (1953), Jack Reacher is a surprisingly dark and complex anti-hero. Expect to see a lot more of him over the coming years.

The title of Safety Not Guaranteed (15A) is taken from an intriguing small ad that appears in a Seattle magazine, which requests submissions from aspiring adventurers who wish to travel back in time. Stuck for a feature idea, journalist Jeff (Jake Johnson) heads for the remote Washington town of Ocean View, taking with him interns Darius (Aubrey Plaza) and Arnau (Karan Soni). There they stalk the mysterious Kenneth (Mark Duplass), who appears to be quite serious about time-travel — but is Kenneth a harmless eccentric or a dangerous sociopath? Written by Derek Connolly and directed by Colin Trevorrow, Safety Not Guaranteed is an enjoyably quirky tale of oddball characters that has much more in common with the low-fi hi-jinks of Primer (2004) and Donnie Darko (2001) than, say, Back to the Future (1985). Intrigued by Kenneth, Darius finds herself falling for him, and hoping that he doesn’t really have the secret to travelling in time; meanwhile, the feckless Jeff embarks on a little time-travel of his own by reigniting an affair from his teenage years. The movie is less interested in going back to reshape the past than it is about learning to live in the moment, and accepting life for what it is, imperfections and all. The combination of subtle, dark humour, a hilariously obnoxious Johnson and a winning chemistry between Plaza and Duplass make this one worth your time.

‘Scandi-noir’ is something of a hot ticket these days, and fans of the TV series The Killing and The Bridge will enjoy False Trail (16s), a police procedural set in Sweden’s bleakly beautiful Norrland. When a young woman is found murdered in a remote, close-knit community, the Stockholm-based Erik Backström (Rolf Lassgård) is called in by local police chief Torsten (Peter Stormare), on the basis that he will bring no prejudice with him. However, Erik quickly discovers that everyone expects him to find local thug Jari (Eero Milonoff) guilty, given the circumstantial evidence; when Erik resists the pressure, the mood turns ugly. Complicating matters is the fact that Torsten is step-father to Peter (Kim Tjernström), Erik’s nephew, although the more pressing issue for Erik is that Torsten appears to have a very strong motive for seeing the murdered girl dead. False Trail, aka Jägarna 2, is a sequel to Jägarna (1996), although it works perfectly well as a standalone film; Backström is a Swedish police detective very much in the style of the classic Wallander. Lassgård excels in the lead role, although he is not without strong support, particularly from Stormare and Annika Nordin.

Jack Reacher ****

Safety Not Guaranteed ****

False Trail ****

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