Coming into a series without seeing the prior entries is never a good idea. Narrative information is carried from one installment to the next in a shared continuity, the lifeblood of serialized media. Granted, I saw Scorch Trials before Maze Runner and I doubt the logical inconsistencies would have made seeing the first worth the effort. I did not see the previous Jack Reacher because it looked boring. If my criticisms of Never Go Back are justified by what happened in the original, I apologize in advance for my ignorance. Was I wrong to skip the first movie or was I proven right?
While trying to form a relationship with Major Turner, played by Cobie Smulders, Jack Reacher, played by Tom Cruise, learns she was imprisoned for espionage. After setting her free the two discover a conspiracy involving the military and a private security firm and decide to bring it to light.
I am going to cut to the chase and proclaim Go Back the worst Tom Cruise film I have seen. It is not so much his fault, but everything around him. Smulders and the rest of the cast somehow get by mostly unscathed. The problems include the editing, action, story, and everything that should not be an issue. This is particularly alarming because director Edward Zwick is more than proficient at his craft. Here he is just about brain dead.
I understand action movies are supposed to have many quick cuts because it maintains the momentum of a scene. About five minutes in, there was a cut every half-second when there were two or more people on screen. When one character said their line, cut. When another character did their prescribed action, cut. Maybe there was a rush to get scenes over with, but it absolutely murdered any artistic finesse that might have been salvaged. It was like watching a YouTube video blog made by someone who sucks.
This problem affects action scenes that perpetuate the cinematic epidemic of shaky cam. I wish I could describe the handful of fights, but the camera was jerking harder than an awkward Canadian porn star, and the editing prevented me from taking in the spectacle or lack thereof. Half the time I did not where anyone was in a scene because there was cut before I had a chance to get a lay of the land. What is funny is after I got home Terminator 2 was on TV to remind me that action movies used to be well made.
Because I am making liberal use of similes, the story of Go Back is like a bad episode of NCIS… all of them. What started as a fairly decent mystery gets out of focus quickly after the introduction of Reacher’s possible bastard daughter. That story (spoilers) became superfluous after we find out they are not related, making half the film pointless. The subplot with Turner trying to take charge of the situation despite Reacher’s expertise was more interesting. It had a man versus woman feel that was not patronizing or stupid. The movie would have been great if about their conflict whilst solving the mystery, especially without the daughter character.
Any other Tom Cruise film is better than Jack Reacher: Never Go Back. I know he has a habit of phoning it in, but at least he does it with charisma. He tried his best with this one, as well as the rest of the cast, yet the sum of its parts is not enough to warrant consideration. Instead, I recommend Edge of Tomorrow, Rogue Nation, Magnolia, or anything else that is good.