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Movie Reviews: Jack Reacher: Never Go Back and Denial

Jack Reacher: Never Go Back

Cary, NC – Jack Reacher: Never Go Back is the sequel to the underrated Jack Reacher starring Tom Cruise and based on a series of novels by Lee Childs. Never Go Back is not quite as satisfying as its predecessor but it still manages to have plenty of solid, old school action and the mega charisma of star Tom Cruise.

Strong Sequel

I was a big, big fan of the first film. Featuring strong direction from Christopher McQuarrie (Mission: Impossible–Rogue Nation), Jack Reacher is a straight and narrow kind of action film. It’s not too flashy but delivers exactly what it promises. Also, that film’s villain was played by legendary filmmaker Werner Herzog, a true bizarro casting choice if there ever was one, and thankfully it worked like gangbusters.

Now, as I mentioned, Never Go Back doesn’t quite reach the level of the first film, but director Edward Zwick (The Last Samurai) takes over the reigns and still manages to deliver an entertaining ride.

Cobie Smulders, best known for her role on How I Met Your Mother, joins the fun as a former colleague of Reacher’s. Smulders has already proved herself action capable with the Captain America and Avengers films and she is no slouch here. She matches Cruise punch for punch (and there’s a lot of punching).

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Cruise Doing What He Does Best

Cruise is exactly in his wheelhouse here: full-on action hero mode. The character of Reacher is pretty simple; he does what he thinks is right and simply punches his way through all the bad and it’s a lot of fun. There is a little more attitude to Reacher than, say, Ethan Hunt, Cruise’s character from the Mission: Impossible films, and Cruise knows just how to play it.

The one big fault of Never Go Back is its villain. And again, I’m not sure anything or anyone could top Herzog. It’s almost unfair to have to follow that. Robert Knepper (The Hunger Games, Prison Break) does his best though, and he’s fine. But overall it’s just another guy for Cruise to punch and unfortunately he fails to truly stand out.

Fun Action Film Worth The Trip

Still, Jack Reacher: Never Go Back is a lot of fun. A throwback to actions films of the 1980s and 90s that relies heavily on its star. Thankfully, Cruise delivers as always, making Never Go Back worth the trip!

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Denial

Cary, NC – In a retelling of one of the most captivating court cases of the 20th Century, Denial brings attention a story that is uplifting as a piece of history but fails to energize the material much beyond the retelling of the court’s events.

Good Source for Drama

Denial is the true story of the Irving v. Penguin Books Ltd case where American historian and author Deborah Lipstadt was sued for libel by British author David Irving. Lipstadt wrote extensively about Jewish history and the Holocaust and called out Irving for his Holocaust denial. Irving sued Lipstadt, but under British libel law, the defendant has the burden to prove what they said was true. In other words, Lipstadt had to prove in court that the Holocaust was real and Irving knowingly lied about it.

This was a seminal case that Lipstadt won handily and it was seen as a cathartic way to relitigate the crimes of Nazi Germany, which is how the film plays it as well. And as a straightforward story, it is hard to be disappointed leaving Denial, having learned about such a powerful and unique court case.

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Bad Source for Everything Else

Unfortunately, Denial does not hang much else on this strong framework. Lipstadt is played by Rachel Weisz who can be a hit or miss actress, with some highs (The Lobster) and lows (The Mummy). Here, Weisz is relatively bland, even when her Lipstadt character gives monologues about the Holocaust that are meant to evoke emotions from the audience but largely only feel like words in a script.

The other main actor is Timothy Spall (The King’s Speech, the Harry Potter franchise) who plays David Irving as a curmudgeonly man without much depth or spark. He’s effective in making the audience dislike Irving, particularly when the evidence of anti-Semetism comes out, but there is not much more to the character. But in a film that unfortunately does not do much with the real life story but retell it as accurately as it can, that is all Spall needs to do with his portrayal.

Part of the problem may be that director Mick Jackson is best known for making documentaries for the BBC and other British networks so he treats this film like a documentary and does not inject the necessary energy for a feature film. Although Jackson also directed Volcano and that had plenty of energy.

Worth It For History Fans

If you have no familiarity with the story of Deborah Lipstadt and David Irving and want to learn more, Denial does the job effectively and is, as far as I can tell, a true-to-life film. But other historical films, even ones that took place in courtrooms, have been able to wring more life and drama out of the events than Denial so do not expect much else.

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Jordan Hunt reviews movies for CaryCitizen. Read more Movie Reviews. Photos from Facebook (Jack Reacher: Never Go Back and Denial).