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Jack Reacher: Never Go Back by Henry Jackman (Review)

posted Nov 4, 2016, 4:13 PM by Kaya Savas

If there’s one thing that you can applaud Tom Cruise for, it’s for keeping good action filmmaking alive. Whatever your thoughts on his personal life, it’s just amazing how he as an actor and a producer can deliver some pretty quality action entertainment. The original Jack Reacher was a breath of fresh air as it didn’t depict some crazy stunt or massive sequence to pull the audience in, in fact the original trailer was pretty lackluster. Thankfully though we were surprised by an amazingly written and executed action thriller that felt like a modern day Dirty Harry. Christopher McQuarrie’s attempt at directing was a success and his go-to composer Joe Kraemer knocked it out of the park.

So in a very strange move, literally everyone associated with the first film was dumped. Ed Zwick pulled his team together to deliver Jack Reacher: Never Go Back. It was expected that James Newton Howard would score given his past collaborations with Zwick, but he apparently passed which left an opening that was filled by the ever resourceful Henry Jackman. Henry was without a doubt a perfect fit for the job, unfortunately the canvas he had to work with was rather stale.

Never Go Back is not a bad score, in fact it does a pretty admirable job of establishing some tension and suspense in the first act as it sets everything up. Henry has some cool textures going on to deliver a very subtle opening act that doesn't really get going till about halfway through. Then we open up the musical soundscape for some pulse-driven action. The whole film is a cat and mouse chase, the score definitely alternates between adrenaline and sustaining tension. The drawback is that the music doesn’t stand out. The generic approach to the film spills to the score, and musically there’s not much to really make the film engrossing. I think it’s extremely fair here to compare this to what Joe Kraemer expertly did with the first one. His Jack Reacher had a tremendous music presence that was brooding and rich. It had this power yet felt like it was hiding some underlaying danger that was ready to strike at any moment. Then you had this theme, this theme that anchored the character and the score and it came into this beautiful fruition during the climax in the quarry during the rain fight. AND the big car chase scene was scoreless. Compare that here and Never Go Back essentially ditches extraordinary image and music craftsmanship for a score that was meant to be laid on top of the picture versus being built into it.

Henry did an admirable job here working with a director who seemed just happy enough to churn something out predictable yet somewhat entertaining. The first Jack Reacher definitely had this special feel, from the directing, the editing and down to Joe Kraemer’s fantastic score. It went above and beyond our expectations. Never Go Back instead met our expectations and was okay with that. Henry managed a great balance between adrenaline and suspense to deliver an entertaining cat and mouse plot, but in the end the score feels like it wasn’t given enough room to breathe and truly grow.