Jack Reacher must uncover the truth behind a major government conspiracy in order to clear his name. On the run as a fugitive from the law, Reacher uncovers a potential secret from his past that could change his life forever.
Think what you want about scientology-loving, couch-jumping Tom Cruise, but he usually does manage to pull off an at least solid performance that can make an otherwise mediocre film watchable. His first outing as Jack Reacher was such a case. Not a great movie, but a decent enough plot and Cruise’s performance lifted it enough to make you leave the cinema with a smile. And so as the sequel comes around, it seems a reasonable assumption that it’s worth giving this one a a go too. But as the title already indicates, after this one you won’t want to go back for more.
Never Go Back has very little going for it. The plot is thin and predictable; and where an attempt is made to create suspense it just feels either vague or it’s something you see coming a mile away already. There is nothing smart or interesting about the plot – it’s just A to B to C. So with a well below average script, the action and acting need to make or at least salvage the movie. And to be fair, the action is pretty non-stop. But it isn’t good enough, at all, as not only don’t you care in the slightest about the story, the cinematic experience of the action is surprisingly poor for a Tom Cruise movie. The cinematography is weak, and throwing even more shaky-cam at it just isn’t going to make that any better; the director of photography, Oliver Wood, has plenty of experience with action movies, including for instance 2 Guns and The Bourne Supremacy and Ultimatum films, which all have more than decent cinematography, so I don’t know what happened here.
And the score is truly abominable. Most of the movie there is no score at all, so when it selectively comes in you’d expect it to have an impact. But instead it just sounds like the composer (Henry Jackman, who also scored the Captain America and the Kingsman movies amongst others) picked three loops he still had lying around from previous B-reels: one for ‘Suspense’, one for ‘Action’ and one for ‘Sensitive-slash-Romantic’ scenes; and in the scenes with a score, these same three loops come in again and again – without regard or adjustment for the specific scene and without managing to be remotely interesting enough to be considered a Theme.
And then the acting. Cruise simply disappoints. A rare event, as he is well-known for always giving it his all; here he simply doesn’t. Cobie Smulders is overall pretty good; she is nowhere near Emily Blunt’s Full Metal Bitch in another Cruise action movie: Edge of Tomorrow, but she is mostly credible in her role as Major Turner, interspersed with various scenes that undermine her attempts to come across as hard-ass. The best of the leads is actually Danika Yarosh in her first role on the big screen, playing Samantha, who may or may not be Reacher’s daughter.
With an utterly unremarkable script at the core, and not helped by the directing, cinematography, music or acting, this is a disappointing fail for Cruise, who also produced the movie. Let’s hope he never goes back to Reacher, it’s not worth it.