Updated: Nov 13, 2019
4K ULTRA HD REVIEW / HDR FRAME SHOTS
4K Ultra HD, Blu-ray, Digital copy; PG-13 for violence, profanity and some drug material; streaming via Amazon Video, Google Play, iTunes (4K), Vudu (4K), YouTube
Best extra: Making-of featurette with interviews
TOM CRUISE has done one thing really well since arriving in Hollywood nearly four decades ago – becoming a bona fide onscreen ACTION HERO.
It started with his role as Maverick, the jet jock in “Top Gun,” then as secret agent Ethan Hunt in the “Mission: Impossible” franchise and two Spielberg sci-fi adventures. In the first, he played Chief John Anderton in “Minority Report,” then divorced father Ray Ferrier in “War of the Worlds.” A few years back, Cruise played flawed hero Major William Cage in the highly praised “Live Die Repeat: Edge of Tomorrow.”
In “Jack Reacher,” Cruise begins another franchise. He is both co-producer and actor playing a retired major from the U.S. Army military police, based on the bestselling series by British author Lee Child. A West Point graduate and war hero, Reacher has lived his entire life overseas; now he’s a ghost-like hero, wandering the United States from town to town. Cruise was criticized for coming up short to Reacher's description: 6-foot-5 and 250 pounds. On a good day wearing boots, Cruise is approximately 5-8. Still, he pulls it off. "There are a thousand things to worry about turning a book into a movie, but the exact physical replica of the character is not one of them," Child says in one of the five featurettes, giving his stamp of approval on Cruise's performance.
The first film, "Jack Reacher," was adapted from "One Shot," a perfect launching point. Child describes the story as a "meaty, solid procedural plot with plenty of twists and turns." He defines Reacher as a noble character, whose archetype dates back thousands of years to a crusading "knight-errant, who shows up in the nick of time."
Oscar-winning screenwriter Christopher McQuarrie ("The Usual Suspects,") adapted "One Shot," and worked behind the camera as director for the second time. Cruise and McQuarrie reunited for the highly praised “Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation” (2015) and for the upcoming sixth installment “M:I – Fallout ” hitting theaters in a few weeks.
The “Reacher” suspense unfolds in Pittsburgh, where a sniper has gunned down five civilians along a riverside park. The arrested suspect happens to be a U.S. Army vet of the Iraq war, who pleads innocent and, during his interrogation writes, "Get Jack Reacher." The film features a first-rate cast including wide-eyed British actress Rosamund Pike ("Gone Girl") with a convincing American accent as the defense attorney; Richard Jenkins as her father, and filmmaker Werner Herzog as "The Zec," head of a stateside Russian mafia who has overtaken several U.S. construction empires. Robert Duvall joins the action during the final act as an ex-Marine, who owns a shooting range.
It’s a little surprising the 4K disc wasn’t released when “Jack Reacher: Never Go Back” arrived in Ultra HD format during the winter of 2017. The new disc includes a step-by-step commentary with Cruise and McQuarrie, who detail the obvious action on-screen from storyboards and musical score, highlighting the surprises five-time Oscar-nominated director of photography Caleb Deschanel (father to actresses Emily and Zooey Deschanel) brought to the production.
McQuarrie admits he was fixated by the anti-technological aspect of Reacher’s existence. “He lives sort of in the older and more undeveloped America. No cell phone, no e-mail, none of that.” Cruise and the director also pinpoint the author’s cameo as a Pittsburgh desk sergeant handing back Reacher’s personal belongings.
Sadly, it’s another action thriller beautifully captured on 35mm film and mastered in low-grade 2K. More than half of the film’s resolution was lost during the post-production mastering and rendering process. The upconverted 4K does expose a higher level of natural film grain and a slight uptick in overall resolution compared to the older Blu-ray. The disc also outperforms 4K streaming versions, which suffer from a lower bit-rate.
The real difference is in the expansive HDR/Dolby Vision contrast and wider color palette. The blacks are much deeper during the energized nighttime car chase and Reacher’s final battle against The Zec’s, army – giving the action a REAL POP on screen. Color is adjusted to a natural balance, especially in a downtown bar where Sandy, played by 19-year old Alexia Fast, sets up Reacher for a gang fight outside. Both of their faces were overtly toned with what looked like bad sunburn on the Blu-ray. Here’s it’s toned down with a pleasant warm cast.
The 4K disc and Blu-ray are both coded with the excellent eight-channel DTS-HD soundtrack and full of deep, deep bass and shocking reverberating gun blasts during the opening attack downtown. Joe Kraemer’s score is nicely balanced between the sound effects and dialogue. The 4K disc also includes the commentary track from the composer.
Unfortunately for streamers, the Dolby Digital Plus soundtrack is flat without the punch of subwoofer or the highs, while dialogue is mushy compared to the physical discs.
NO question the 4K disc is clearly the best for picture and sound!
― Bill Kelley III, High-Def Watch producer