Paul Oberjuerge header image 2

Jack Reacher, Tom Cruise and the Book vs. the Movie

January 2nd, 2013 · 10 Comments · UAE

Read the book. Saw the movie. Read the book.

The book is One Shot, the ninth in the Jack Reacher series, written by Lee Child.

The movie is Jack Reacher, starring Tom Cruise as the eponymous drifter and former Army MP who deals out rough justice as he crisscrosses America via bus or hitched ride.

And a conclusion? I have two of them.

1. Tom Cruise is not Jack Reacher and never will be … but the movie is definitely watchable. I recommend it. Cruise is too short, too boyish, too Tom Cruise-y to be anything but Tom Cruise. I still would like to see a Reacher film made with a big guy in the title role. Recently, I recommended Dwayne Johnson for the role. But once the movie begins, it is possible to see it not as a Reacher movie, but as a pretty good action/whodunit film.

2. Seeing the movie, and re-reading the book almost immediately after, led to me believing the movie in many ways is better than the book. I know this is not supposed to happen. The book is always better.

But Lee Child wants us to believe a whole bunch of unbelievable stuff (even more than usual) in this book, and the movie skates past a lot of that or eliminates it — with one major exception.

In both film and book, a sniper shoots to death five people in a town. In both book and movie it is a scarcely believable plot device.

This aspect of the plot involves the bad guy (an ancient and evil survivor of the Soviet gulag system) ordering five people killed to disguise the fact that he wanted only one of them dead.

The one person needed dead, in both book and film, is a woman who owns a quarry. She lives alone. She is a widow in both movie and film, and in the book she lives in a big house in the suburbs and why wouldn’t the bad guys just sneak into her house, kill her quietly and let the cops believe it was a burglary gone bad? Instead, a sniper mows down five people, and that’s easier/more sensible for the bad guys?

The movie improves on the book in the final confrontation. The film needs Reacher to be lucky with his shooting as well as his avoidance of bullets (especially when closing in on the bad guys while driving a compact car).

But the book calls for Reacher to walk through hundreds of yards of Indiana fields while being sprayed by the frigid water dispensed by circle-irrigating sprinklers so that he can reduce his body temperate enough (or perhaps have a shield of cold water on his body) so that he will not be seen in thermal imaging inside the house/fortress of the bad guys.

The book also has Reacher, all 250 pounds of him, walk around a century-old house without a floorboard making so much as a creak. He is the lightest-on-his-feet 250-pounder ever; the bad guys never hear him, even when he’s a few feet away.

The book also has him kill four guys pretty much with his bare hands, including a perhaps-fatal knife toss. As well as (I think) the only example in the 16 Reacher novels in which he hugs a guy to death. (I bet some Reacher Creature has counted how many people the character has killed, in 16 books. Has to be close to 100.)

In the film … he’s just shooting people. Much more effective, generally, than hugging a guy to death.

The book also ends with two prime villains still alive, and headed for trial, and how is Reacher going to avoid being subpoenaed? Sure, he’s a loner and all, and hard to find, but wouldn’t he be found if the FBI were looking for him?

In the movie, all the bad guys are dead at the end. Much, much tidier. Reacher can be on the first bus outta Dodge and catch a few winks before he reaches the next town that needs cleaning up.

One more note on Jack Reacher, the movie. It was compelling enough, even in the first 30 minutes, which is exposition-heavy, that not a single person in the theater left. Which I have never seen in three-plus years in the UAE. Somebody here always is bored or offended by a movie and gets up and leaves. Too many cultural boundaries, from the multi-ethnic population. Someone will be unhappy.

But none of the crowd of 100 or more left. No one.

So. Tom Cruise as Reacher? No. Never. “Jack Reacher” as a successful movie? Yes. Absolutely.

The book always better than the movie? Not in this case.


10 responses so far ↓

  • 1 John J. Campo // Mar 25, 2014 at 2:04 AM

    I have seen the movie and agree it was a good movie. It wasn’t a Jack Reacher movie. I also agree that the book ended badly as he killed people in front of the DA and NBC and then just left town. Not very Reacher like. I was surprised at the many plot changes made to the movie. I like Tom C. In everything he does but he is not Jack Reacher. Howie Long????

  • 2 Chris Smith // Oct 24, 2014 at 2:44 AM

    I saw the movie first and read the book after…having read earlier books I was initially disappointed with the casting of Tom Cruise but if you take the movie for what it is, more an action movie/mystery and put aside the physical expectations of Jack Reacher it basically works…but still would like to see someone more like Reacher in future adaptations…one point mentioned above is wrong…in the book the wife was not the owner of the quarry…her husband was but she had reported him missing (assumed killed by the Zec’s cronies) and the reason they didnt straight out kill her in the house was because, as Jack Reacher theorised, it would be suspicious for the husband to disappear and the wife to murdered so soon afterwards which was the reason to make it look like a random attack

  • 3 Tom D // Nov 5, 2014 at 5:29 PM

    Ever since I started reading Lee Child I have imagined David Morse in the role (look him up on IMDB). Has the right build and the right demeanor on film and I have always like him as an actor. In the beginning he was around the right age but now too old. What do you think?

  • 4 Allen Doss // Jul 11, 2016 at 12:51 PM

    The fun of a teacher novel is it’s not meant to be belieable. Clint Eastwood spigitti western were totally unbelievable but damn good movies to watch. I think the movie should try to at least get Reacher right

  • 5 Bobbie // Sep 1, 2016 at 5:23 PM

    I almost didn’t watch this movie because of Tom Cruise’s lack of physical resemblance to Jack Reacher. However, many reviews saying it was a good movie otherwise convinced me to waste a couple hours of my life. Cruise should be named the King of Cheese. The scene where he walks out of the moving car which he is running away from the police in and then stands in a crowd who looks back and forth at the police cars and gives him a hat followed by him on the bus handing the hat back and both him and the hat owner smiling? CHEESE. I also felt much of the dialogue strayed from the book; it’s easy to know which parts without reading the book – it’s the cheesy parts. The direction of this movie is horrible – the silent scenes in the beginning where the evidence if found and leads police to Barr? And where the detective is outside the hotel and Reacher is in the car and scenes go back and forth between the two, the detective’s hand, the gearshift in the car? That was painful to watch because it was so CHEESY. And why is the attorney’s breasts about to explode out of her tight tank top???? The acting is also horrible by everyone. A buff actor playing Reacher couldn’t have saved this film. No way. I did enjoy seeing the Pittsburgh landmarks and scenery though.

  • 6 Daniel Clifton // Jun 14, 2017 at 4:09 PM

    The way I look at it is that the Jack Reacher in the movies is not exactly obviously the Jack Reacher in the novels. I enjoyed both movies. I enjoyed the acting of Tom Cruise. I have now read the first three novels, which was motivated by the two movies. The Reacher in the novels is a different character. That is the way I look at it. I agree with the person who commented that Dwayne Johnson would have been the actor for this character in the novel. But with the movies somehow they decided that Tom Cruise would work as the Jack Reacher character. Figure that one out. I like the movies. But that character is not the character in the novels.

  • 7 Dennis Ostrander // Aug 16, 2017 at 1:53 PM

    Has anyone noticed that Jack shoots both right handed and left handed in the movie. At the rifle range he was right handed but in the final scenes he was left handed.

  • 8 Matt // Jul 8, 2018 at 11:35 PM

    I like most of the movie’s choices over the book, except the (spoilers) final fist-fight scene between Reacher and Chenko/Charlie

    I’m generally not a fan of the “it’s personal” trope [1], and it felt especially weird here, since Emerson and the Zec were still a threat.

    In the book, Chenko is quickly dispatched, but then returns after the Zec is presumed caught for one last showdown, ending with a clever shot from Cash. Was probably too hard to make it work well on screen, hence the change?


  • 9 Yvette vernet // Oct 23, 2018 at 8:48 PM

    When I was reading the book,one actor came clearly to mind as Jack Reacher and it was Damian Lewis,Tom Cruse is not Jack Reacher.

  • 10 RichB // Jan 3, 2019 at 8:11 PM

    Is there an American version of Liam Neeson or grittier version of Henry Cavill who could play the role? Also wondering if I am the only one who thinks John Puller and Jack Reacher are basically the same character from two different authors?

Leave a Comment