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Doctor Strange

It might feel like a case of ‘wheel them in and wheel them out’ with recent Marvel movies. There have been so many with all eventually blurring into each other. Making each different is the key allowing the freshness of a superhero character to remain. ‘Doctor Strange’ is certainly unique with its own vibe. Created by comic book artist Steve Ditko in 1963, its only previous live-action film was the 1978 TV movie. Suitably made-over in the 21st Century, the ‘master of the mystic arts’ arrives with a film sure to bedazzle eager comic enthusiasts.

Injured in a car accident, top neurosurgeon Stephen Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch) sees his career in ruins. Setting out on a journey of healing, he encounters the Ancient One (Tilda Swinton). Teaching him the ways of magic and mystical powers, she gives him abilities of incredible strength. Facing an evil foe in Kaecillius (Mads Mikkelsen), Strange is put to the test. Aided by fellow doctor Christine (Rachel McAdams), Strange utilises his new skills against the forces of vicious tyranny.

‘Doctor Strange’ is a briskly paced adventure doing justice to the character. Perfectly embodying Strange’s arrogance and eventual humility, Cumberbatch adds nuances. Strange may not be initially likeable and perhaps seems like many people we meet in real life, but we come to understand where his moral compass lies. Cumberbatch adds much pathos and humour to his mystical character with a competent roster of co-stars trying to break free of their potentially one-dimensional roles.

Despite the usual the Marvel movie story-telling mechanics giving an air of familiarity, ‘Doctor Strange’ manages to ease out of this barrier. The concept of magic and the dark arts allows the script to go in many unusual directions. Although you know how it may end, you are never sure what new powers Strange will use to outwit his opponents. The CGI is typically amazing and the action is of an excitingly high eye-popping calibre. Scott Derrickson directs with flair, adding spice whenever scenes appear in danger of slowing.

It’s easy being cynical about Marvel films as they all feel alike. ‘Doctor Strange’ deserves a fair go with its fine performances and interesting ideas effectively expressed. Undoubtedly a sequel will surface making one ‘marvel’ at the enduring success of a comics company beginning decades ago.

Rating out of 10: 7

Jack Reacher: Never Go Back

Military police shows currently seem to be in vogue. TV series such as ‘Jag’ and the ‘NCIS’ franchises explore the often murky world of army politicking and scandal. British author Lee Child has taken a leaf out of this book with his Jack Reacher novel series. Charting the exploits of a former Major in the U.S. Army Military Police Corps, now turned detective, his works have spun onto screens. With the public’s appetite for the genre showing no signs of slowing down, it’s a sure thing this latest Reacher film will find an audience of eager sleuths.

Often placing himself in dangerous scenarios, Jack Reacher (Tom Cruise) continually lives on the edge. His current case finds him in a perilous predicament. Returning to the headquarters of his old military unit to visit friend Major Susan Turner (Cobie Smulders), Reacher is accused of murder. At the same time dealing with echoes from his past, he gradually unearths a plethora of deceit. Finding he is part of a larger conspiracy, he races to clear his name with his skills pushed to the limits as past and present collide.

Despite what one may think of his public persona, Tom Cruise knows how to star in great action films. ‘Jack Reacher: Never Go Back’ is a solid thriller making full use of his talents. Fast paced, exciting and filled with interesting characters, it has the ingredients needed for a successful adventure. Reacher is a lost soul with a world weariness getting him into trouble. Discovering danger in spite of his eternal reluctance, he enters the wayward fray with gusto. Cruise inhabits the role with ease with his leading man credentials intact.

His performance is matched by Smulders and the fine cast delivering authenticity amongst the explosive incidents. It’s fascinating watching the military police move in a world outside the normal one with their own set of laws and morality. Director Edward Zwick blends these elements and excellently staged action sequences with a professionalism mirroring the film’s high quality. Whilst a few predictable moments arise, the energy and rhythm continually provide diverting viewing.

‘Jack Reacher: Never Go Back’ is filled with military lingo admirers should enjoy. With several books in the Jack Reacher series having been published, another cinematic adventure would be welcome. If this film’s strong standards are maintained, another feather should be added to Cruise’s growing movie cap.

Rating out of 10: 8