My Grade: B+
For what it is worth I am not familiar with the source material for this character/movie nor am I fan of Tom Cruise, but I honestly think he was pretty good in this movie.
Cruise plays Jack Reacher a former army MP who is now a roguish man living off the grid roaming around the country, seemingly taking on tasks and jobs at his own whim. He's sort of like if you mixed Jack Bauer, Sherlock Holmes, James Bond and the cast of the A-Team together in a blender, forgot about it for a while and it fermented a bit and some Tom Cruise got in.
Fortunately for us Tom Cruise is not playing his usual "smirking jackass" trope in this movie and actually turns in a pretty hard-core performance.
The movie opens with a scene that sort of chilling and unsettling in the wake of recent events, where a sniper kills five seemingly random people from a parking ramp near PNC Stadium in Pittsburgh. After a remarkably swift investigation the DA the chief detective have found the man they believe to be the sniper, James Barr. He's given the option of pleading guilty where he'll get life in prison or going to trial where he'll like lose to an unbeatable DA with a fancy for the death penalty. He simply asks for the men to find Jack Reacher before being beaten into a coma enroute back to prison.
The investigator and DA are confused on who Reacher is until he literally walks right into their office, inquisitive about Barr who was a former sniper in [a middle-eastern war] he never "got his kill." Being the type who join the army in order to kill and get away with it he killed a handful of men on the last day of his tour. A combination of the men having actually been criminals and government cover-up got him his freedom when he left the service, Jack vowed to get Barr should he ever slip-up again. Now it seems he has.
Reacher meets with the attorney representing Barr in his defense (ummm.... She took a court appointment? The Public Defender's office was booked? I dunno) finding herself not only going against her father (the DA) in court but with a case she cannot win. She just hope to at least find grounds to avoid the DP. Reacher is reluctant at first but eventually comes around to helping her out but as their investigation wears on it seems that maybe Barr was set-up, a pawn in a larger conspiracy.
The movie has plenty of good action scenes in it and Tom Cruise is actually pretty likable in the role of our infalliable action hero. Again, I'm not sure how the character is portrayed int he books but here I think Tom Cruise did a good job.
If there's one flaw in the movie it's that I don't know what the stakes in it are for me as the viewer. Yes, once our characters get in over their heads their own lives and reputations become at risk but for most of the movie they're working to prove the evidence of an innocent man whom we never get to meet or identify with. It doesn't matter to me that the character might be innocent because I don't know him enough TO care.
That aside there's a lot of good, fun, action movie moments in this movie and a great part played by Robert Duvall as the estate-keeper of Reacher's home Skyfall... (or something.) Most of the other secondary characters (including Rosamund Pike as Helen the defense's counsel) are just that: Secondary. They're there pretty much to give Reacher someone to talk to and look like a badass against. Which, really, Tom Cruise sort of pulls off here.
Can't say how fans of the book(s) will take the movie, but I enjoyed it.