Here’s an extra value book blog post where you get two for the price of one. On top of reviewing fictions books I’m crossing the line (as I’ve been known to do now and then) and reviewing a movie as well.
First up – my book review of One Shot by Lee Child. Right behind it will be my movie review of Jack Reacher which is based on One Shot.
As fiction books go One Shot is as good as it gets. We have a mystery intertwined with suspense and plenty of action. Jack Reacher doesn’t disappoint on any front. In a bar brawl he mops up the floor (sidewalk, actually) with five local tough guys, shoots a perfect score on a rifle range and at the end of the novel he lays siege to a house packed with heavily armed bad guys with nothing but a hunting knife. Drily, Reacher commented on the stupidity of bringing a knife to a gun fight.
That didn’t stop Jack Reacher from cleaning house. Literally. The knife didn’t even slow him down. Half the time he didn’t even need it.
The mystery is why did James Barr, retired US Army sniper, lose his mind one morning and open fire on a crowd of office workers heading home after a long day’s work? The case is air tight; James Barr did it. From fingerprints to shell casings to boot prints, James Barr is guilty beyond any shadow of a doubt. An actual trial is just a formality.
Enter Jack Reacher. Reacher came to town to make sure Barr gets the justice he deserves. Reacher didn’t come to town to help James Barr, Reacher stopped by to throw the switch on the electric chair if possible.
I’m not going to spoil it for you with any more detail but I will tell you this; One Shot does a 180 degree turn on what Reacher set out to do — and why. That’s because Reacher’s incredible intellect and super human attention to detail gives him a picture of what happened that nobody was supposed to see.
If you’ve never read a Jack Reacher novel, starting out with One Shot is as good a place as any even though it’s #9 in the Jack Reacher series. Like any good suspense fiction series you don’t need to start with book one; you can jump in at any point and not feel lost even for a second.
First and foremost – Pay no mind to the movie poster; Tom Cruise is NOT Jack Reacher.
The Jack Reacher movie is a great film. Tom Cruise delivers an excellent performance. But as a Jack Reacher movie goes, it just doesn’t work.
Go and see Jack Reacher because it’s a good film in its own right and put out of your mind it’s meant to be a Jack Reacher movie.
Tom Cruise as Jack Reacher does manage to nail some of Jack Reacher’s personality but he came up short. About ten inches too short. And eighty pounds lighter.
The Jack Reacher as told by Lee Child is a giant of a man standing at 6’5 with 250 pounds of pure muscle. In the One Shot novel, Reacher’s immense size and strength allows him to crush a bad guy to death with a bear hug that could — yes — kill a bear.
That entire scene never made it into the Jack Reacher movie, by the way. Naturally a 5’7, 170 lb little runt of a man couldn’t kill anybody with a bear hug except maybe a teddy bear.
Normally, physical characteristics of a character shouldn’t be such a big deal. But in this case it is. Lee Child, in each and every Jack Reacher novel makes it clear to the reader that Jack Reacher is a large, powerful man with a physical profile that intimidates. Even menaces. Tom Cruise isn’t menacing. He just can’t fill Jack Reacher’s shoes. Or shirts. Or boxer shorts.
This casting error is on par with seeing a flat-chested actress portray Dolly Parton or a short guy take on the role of Shaquille O’Neal.
What really leaves me scratching my head is that Lee Child himself approved of Tom Cruise as Jack Reacher and is very happy with the selection. That’s one mystery that may never be solved.
Naturally other parts of the book never made it to the screen which is only understandable. That’s standard operating procedure in Hollywood because let’s face it, you can’t condense a full length novel into a two hour movie without some serious cutting.
But what you can do is keep the movie more true to the book. Two thirds of the way through the movie The Jack Reacher Movie is true to the One Shot novel. That’s where the Jack Reacher Movie runs off the rails and heads off in a completely different direction. I won’t ruin it for you but the grand finale of the movie — while interesting — is a pale shadow of the sensational ending of One Shot, the novel. The movie’s ending wasn’t just abbreviated, it was almost totally re-written.
I can tell you with total confidence you will enjoy One Shot — or any other Jack Reacher novel. I can also tell you that the Jack Reacher movie is a fun romp of a film.
But the one is not in step with the other which is what all of us have come to expect from movie adaptations of the books they’re based on.