Reel Rumbles: Jack Reacher vs. Oblivion
Directed by Christopher McQuarrie, who previously co-wrote the Cruise-starred Valkyrie and more recently co-wrote and directed Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation, and based on the novel One Shot by Lee Child, Reacher received incredibly mixed reviews and was among the lowest-earning Cruise films in the recent decade.
Directed by Joseph Kosinski, who also directed Tron: Legacy, this movie is based on an original story by Kosinski. While Oblivion didn’t perform spectacularly, it at least performed better than After Earth.
Oblivion takes place on a ravaged Earth, after the Scavs invaded, forcing the humans to use the nukes. They defeated the invaders but lost a large part of the Earth in the process. Most of the humans are living on the Tet, a space station hovering over the planet, using the oceans as fuel to prepare for a deep space trip. The two remaining humans are Cruise and Andrea Riseborough, who serve as a technician team that looks after the drones that patrol for remaining Scavs. While out on a service call one day, Cruise makes an important discovery that forces him to question everything he thought he knew. Oblivion is based on a storyboard idea by the director Joseph Kosinksi, who was able to make the movie after his idea was auctioned off to the highest-paying company.
Jack Reacher is based on the novel One Shot by Lee Child. Lee Child has written a long-running series of novels featuring Reacher, a former Military Police officer-turned-private detective. After a lone gunman shoots down a handful of innocents one bright, sunny morning, the supposed perpetrator is arrested and asks for Jack Reacher. Who should saunter into town, but Reacher himself, who teams up with the perpetrator’s public defender to investigate whether the man actually committed the crime.
I do enjoy a good mystery, but extra special bonus points go to Oblivion for being based on a graphic novel idea written by the director himself. That, on top of the fact that the story struck me as entirely original and refreshing, make Oblivion the winner here.
Non-Tom Cruise performances:
Having seen plenty of Tom Cruise’s movies over the years, it’s pretty difficult to differentiate his performances from film to film. Whereas many other actors are able to disappear into the characters they portray, his are always “Tom Cruise as _______,” where his participation is the main attraction of the film. This isn’t a stark criticism of his acting – his recent history of movies has actually been pretty stellar. You just know what to expect out of the man. That’s why I’m choosing to focus on the supporting cast.
Starting with Oblivion, Morgan Freeman is the obvious standout as the biggest draw besides Cruise. I mean, his face is plastered on the poster next to Cruise’s. However, he’s really not in the movie all that much. He plays the same type of character as he typically plays, a wise, patient, old man who doesn’t give a damn what other people think. Another supporting actor is Andrea Riseborough, who delivers a pretty effective performance as Cruise’s partner.
Then there’s Werner Herzog. Like Freeman in Oblivion, Herzog doesn’t appear in a whole lot of Jack Reacher – only a few choice scenes – but unlike Freeman, Herzog makes a huge impression. I like to think that Herzog prepared his own lines for his performance. Those familiar with Herzog and his performance in this movie would likely agree. How Herzog was even convinced to be in Jack Reacher is baffling.
Werner Herzog, I mean Jack Reacher, wins. I mean, his character doesn’t even have a proper name. He’s just called The Zec. C’mon.
Tom Cruise is not only an actor, he’s basically a brand. When you see his name connected with a particular film, you generally know what to expect from the movie. Lately, however, Cruise has been
Oblivion features a more conservative Cruise. Throughout the movie, he is shown that everything he thought his whole life meant is a complete lie. Are there fun action sequences? Absolutely. Without being too spoilerish, there’s some fun Cruise-on-Cruise action going down. But the majority of Cruise’s performance is devoted to his internal conflict as he reckons with a truth he was never prepared for.
Jack Reacher features Tom Cruise Classic. He’s a self-assured badass who don’t take no guff from nobody. His character wanders into town, ruins everyone’s day, and solves a crime in the process. And he beats up a bunch of people. If you’re watching a Tom Cruise movie, he has to be beating up multiple people. The car chase scene is pretty classic too, as he reportedly did his own stunt driving.
While I like the character in Oblivion more, if I’m watching Tom Cruise, he needs to be full force Cruise. Jack Reacher.
While I quite enjoyed Oblivion and its originality and style, I have to give it to Jack Reacher for taking a based-on-a-book, by-the-number movie and making one hell of a damn experience out of it.