Jack Reacher: Never Go Back Ultra HD Blu-ray Review
Competently made, great action, but strangely vapid and empty
If it were up to me, I'd just kill ya.Tom Cruise reprises his role of Jack Reacher from the 2012 hit (of the same name), and this time takes the eighteenth of Lee Child’s novels, Never Go Back, as its main focus while reuniting the star with director Edward Zwick (they worked together on The Last Samurai) to produce a sequel that while seeming to do everything right, still seems vapid and empty. This time around, Reacher, finds himself embroiled in a military cover-up when Major Turner (his contact within the Army) is arrested on espionage and Reacher himself is charged with a murder he didn’t commit and both are being hunted by a clandestine ‘Black Ops’ team of assassins while playing surrogate parents to a fifteen year-old girl who may or may not be Jack's daughter.Zwick should be applauded for the different track that this action sequel takes, exploring a more ‘human’ side to what is essentially a very one dimensional character, and Cruise for taking the bull by the horns and running with it; adding some emotional investment to the characters; however the underlying story is very formulaic and rumbles along with such pace that only after the credits do you realise you’ve been hoodwinked. A 90’s throwback film it might be (right down to the score) but with obvious ideas and little new to say this second outing fails to capitalise on its laurels. The action scenes that punctuate the narrative work well and the whole is competently made, yet it feels so empty and ordinary despite the fine work on show.
Picture QualityJack Reacher: Never Go Back was, unusually in this day and age, filmed on 35mm using Panavision Panaflex Millennium XL2 cameras, and was finished using a 2K Digital Intermediate (DI), which presumably formed the basis for this Ultra HD Blu-ray release. The film was upscaled to 3840 x 2160p and presented in widescreen 2.39:1 aspect ratio. The disc uses 10-bit video depth, a Wider Colour Gamut (WCG) and High Dynamic Range (HDR), and is encoded using the HEVC (H.265) codec. We reviewed the Ultra HD Blu-ray release of Jack Reacher: Never Go Back on a Panasonic 65DX902B UltraHD 4K TV with a Samsung UBD-K8500 Ultra HD Blu-ray player.
The 1080 Blu-ray, included in the set, has a strong, bright image, well detailed and well coloured; the UHD disc is a decent step up from this with regard to detailing, colouring and overall oomph. Fine detail, such as skin texture and clothing weaves are slight improvements, but it is with establishing shots where the real definitions occur: trees against the skyline, people in the Mardi Gras crowds, building facias etc. all are cleaner and sharper.
The 4K image is a step up from the Full HD picture
This is compounded by the HDR which adds a further sense of depth to the image, at both ends of the scale, giving rise to that ‘cleaner edge’. Look at the first shot of the Washington House of Representatives through the park and how the foreground trees have a greater sense of presence due to the robustness of the bark, then the people in the distance, how defined they are against the background, to the trees against the sky and finally how much relief the House has in the distance. Likewise the establishing shot of the airport entrance, how much more depth there is to the white of the lighting. Then there is the WCG which strengthens the colours giving a far better sense of realism; the grey/green of the combat fatigues, the reds of the flags and the blues of the skies. Skin colours are a tad pushed, but still look natural enough (Cruise looks his age though!)
Digitally there are no issues to mention and the source is clean and bright; there is very nice grain structure that never interferes and gives an organic feel to the image. On the whole the 4K image is a step up from the Full HD picture, but not in a ‘wow look at me’ kind of way, more towards the natural elegance of nature.
Sound QualitySimon Crust reviews the Dolby TrueHD track on a traditional 5.1 surround set up – The same could be said for the surround track which uses ambience to provide a sense of realism, whether that is rain, street, airport or car; there is a confinement to the mix that places you in the situation. Things really liven up in the action sequences, punches and kicks have a suitable weight behind them, likewise firearms pack a hefty wallop. Bass is well controlled and there are plenty of LF effects to keep the sub happy, though the track seldom plumbs subterranean depths, while dialogue is clear and precise and sound very natural. The Mardi Gras climax holds some very nice surround effects with the fireworks exploding overhead being of particular delight. The throwback score is well layered and never interferes with the action on screen. An efficient track that pushes its information forward but doesn’t really separate itself from the reference tracks.
The Dolby Atmos soundtrack is efficient rather than impressive
Steve Withers reviewed the Dolby Atmos soundtrack on a 7.2.4-channel setup – The Dolby Atmos soundtrack is competent rather than stand-out, much like the film itself. The sound designers certainly make use of the object-based nature of Atmos to provide ambience to scenes, whether they are in a room, a car or out on the street. The Mardi Gras sequences offer the most opportunities in terms of immersive effects, whilst the firework display makes the greatest use of the overhead channels. The action sequences are effectively enhanced by the sound design and the LFE channel is used to add greater impact to certain scenes whether it's punches or gunshots. Dialogue always remains clear and focused amongst the action, whilst the score is mixed seamlessly throughout the rest of soundtrack. However this track is quite front heavy and the surround and overhead channels are used sparingly to enhance certain scenes, rather than over-staying their welcome.
ExtrasAll the extras are found on the Full HD Blu-ray included in the set:
Reacher Returns – Even at just eleven minutes this feature manages to cover quite a lot of ground, centring on the selection of Never Go Back as the ‘obvious’ choice for a sequel, cast and crew discuss character and attempts to add more, while Cruise, himself, talks about his admiration for the titular role, before moving on to such regular subjects as adapting the narrative, casting, plot points, locations etc.
An Unexpected Family – This fifteen minute feature fleshes out the father-mother-daughter bond as seen through Jack Reacher.
Relentless: On Location in Louisiana – This twenty five minute piece, the most substantive feature, concentrates on the film's shooting locations, production and set design while being constrained by the film's budget. It then expands into including the design and shooting of scenes while Cruise gets plenty of back slapping for his dedication.
Take Your Revenge First: Lethal Combat – Another Cruise-centric piece looking at his physical and mental preparation for filming the combat scenes.
No Quarter Given: Rooftop Battle – Eight minutes examining in closer detail the climatic fight scene.
Reacher in Focus: With Tom Cruise and Photographer David James – Eight minute feature detailing the on-set still photography that occurs during filming.
Ultra HD Blu-ray VerdictJack Reacher: Never Go Back is Tom Cruise’s sequel to the 2012 hit and takes the character into slightly more emotional depths regarding family. Whilst director Edward Zwick can be lauded for trying this, as well as Cruise for being on board, the resulting whole, while being competently made with great action sequences and emotional investment to the characters remains strangely vapid and empty, as if the there is no heart to the production. The fact that the basic story is fairly pedestrian doesn’t help, relying, as it does, on coincidence rather than deduction and while the action scenes are good, many feel forced into the narrative to give some impetus to the drive, despite the pace being very high.
A worthy upgrade for an unworthy film
As a 4K Ultra HD set the package from Paramount is very good. The picture at first glance might not seem like that much of an improvement over the (included) Full HD Blu-ray, but it is brighter, with more depth to the image, greater detail and an overall improvement in quality; while the Dolby Atmos track is absorbing and engaging if never straying very far from the norm. The extras package is pretty good with some nice making-of featurettes looking into the background of the production.
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