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Christopher McQuarrie on Jack Reacher car chase: “If the camera wasn’t in danger, the shot wasn't worth doing”

  • Created on Wednesday, 12 December 2012 21:28
  • Written by Martin Bigg

As 2012 draws to a close, we come to that point where it's time to reflect on our favourite movie car chase scenes of the year. But don't make your mind up just yet, as there's still one more last minute entry to count, as the highly-anticipated Jack Reacher approaches cinemas in just a couple of weeks. It's so close we can practically smell the burning rubber.

Based on Lee Child’s best-selling novels, Tom Cruise plays the lead role of ex-military vigilante Jack Reacher in this film adaptation based on the ninth book in the series, One Shot. In the film, Reacher gets drawn into the case of a suspicious spree of homicides by a sniper who seemingly targeted random civilians.

While we can’t say how faithful it is to the book, there’s one notable difference that stands out in the film adaptation: he happens to be rather adept at driving muscle cars really fast. Indeed, the latest trailer shows snippets of an extended chase scene set in the gloomy night time streets of New York, as Reacher’s puts a Chevrolet Chevelle through its paces.

Judging from the battered state it’s left in by the end of the trailer, it’s fair to say we can expect the Chevelle to trade a lot of paint as it is seen smashing into police cars and ramming into an Audi. There’s even a nice nod to Nicholas Winding’s Drive, as Reacher evades his pursuers by donning a disguising cap from a passer-by before standing cool as a cucumber watching the police obliviously sail past.

The on-screen driving looks spectacular, too. Tom Cruise is renowned for doing his own stunts, and Jack Reacher is no exception – all the driving you see on-screen was performed by Cruise himself. "What we did is actually very dangerous and took a lot of skill, but I had an absolute blast doing it," Cruise commented at the London premiere this week. "It was really fun. That car is a tricky car; the surfaces on the road were not always ideal, but I'd always wanted to do a car chase like that."

A new car chase featurette video looks at Tom’s prowess behind the wheel in some behind the scenes footage of the chase, proficiently powersliding and performing handbrake turns in the substantial slab of American muscle all by himself : "We had a car chase with one great resource - an actor who is a professional driver," director Christopher McQuarrie explains. “If the camera wasn’t in danger, the shot wasn’t worth doing.” We here at VaRaces approve of that mentality.

Jack Reacher is also notable for being director McQuarrie’s first directed film in twelve years since the underrated The Way of the Gun, which also featured a unique car chase - albeit one that probably didn’t stray above 10 miles an hour. And yet despite the snail’s pace, the scene is effectively suspenseful, so it will be interesting to see what the man can achieve when he focuses on a more action-packed chase scene.

Early reviews of Jack Reacher have been positive so far, and often cite the chase as a central highlight. Hollywoodreporter noted that “another action sequence that delivers the goods and doesn’t cheat is an extended nocturnal car chase through Pittsburgh streets that harks back to the propulsive realism of Bullitt and The French Connection days; it’s no coincidence that the car Reacher drives is a 1970 Chevy Chevelle.” A tall order indeed.

Hollywoodreporter also confirmed that there will be no music to distract us during the chase, allowing us to become fully immersed and appreciate the sounds of squealing tyres, brutal crashes and that bellowing V8 engine - a quality that many of the very best chases like Bullitt and Ronin seem to share: “As it races through the city’s shadowy canyons, the set piece delivers a fine sense of real speed and is prolonged enough to achieve a sense of genuine occasion rather than seeming just an obligatory action interlude to offset the talk scenes.” 

Jack Reacher chase

While the Chevrolet Chevelle doesn’t have the car chase stardom of its muscle car cousins the Ford Mustang and the Dodge Charger, it seems to have become a rising star in contemporary car chase films. Recent examples include Fast and Furious, Faster, Drive Angry and War.

So there you have it: you can officially call us excited about Jack Reacher now. From what we’ve seen and read, it could well slip in at the last minute as 2012’s defining car chase sequence – it won’t be long until we find out, either, as Jack Reacher rolls into cinemas December 21st in the US and December 26th in the UK – other release dates can be found at its IMDB page.

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