Studies in Sigma: Jack Reacher

"Tom Cruise" and "deep characterisation" are not phrases that sit easily in the same sentence. Truth be told, I've always had a tough time shaking that mental image of Tom Cruise as the cocky, brash, extroverted ace fighter pilot that he played in Top Gun. (Chaps, keep this in mind: that movie is one of the greatest ever made in terms of cheesy lines and great action sequences; it's also the gayest non-gay movie of all time, so keep that in mind the next time you "feel the need for speed".) Yet, somehow he managed to pull off quite a feat in his last "serious" film, Jack Reacher.

I finished watching it yesterday, and my word, I'm quite surprised at what I saw. I was expecting yet another big dumb brainless action movie, of the kind that Cruise/Wagner Productions specialises in sending our way. What I got, instead, was a very well thought-out and very intriguing film that also serves as one of the most concrete demonstrations of the real-world Sigma archetype that you will ever see.

The movie defies expectations from the very beginning. You watch as a brutal crime is committed, in which 5 seemingly random and senseless murders are committed by a hidden sniper. Due to seeming sloppiness on the sniper's part- depositing a coin in the parking meter of the garage from which he takes the shots, leaving a spent brass casing at the scene, and letting himself be filmed while driving away- the police quickly find and arrest a borderline psychotic ex-Army sniper. His only response after 16 hours of questioning: "GET JACK REACHER". What follows is a twisting, turning, completely unexpected and actually highly intelligent thriller of a movie in which the title character's wits, strength, and stamina are tested up to and in some cases beyond the breaking point as he slowly unravels a case in which nothing is as it seems on the surface, and a serious conspiracy brews that threatens to put an innocent man on death row.

When Vox defined his Sigma archetype- of which he is unquestionably a member- he defined the Sigma male as someone who will actively resist any attempt to infringe upon his independence of thought and action, someone who is extremely intelligent and extremely competent, and someone who views the rest of the world with something between mild contempt and amused disdain. Sigma males tend to be quiet, methodical, pragmatic, ruthless, and calculating. They have no patience for nonsense, and their greatest loyalty is not to any person or group, but to a concept: Truth.

I don't know if the screenwriters for this film are regular readers of Vox Popoli, but they might as well be. Jack Reacher as a character completely defies all expectations. Classic example: he's in a motel room, going over evidence relating to the case with a very attractive attorney sitting on his bed, played ably by Rosamund Pike, he's got his shirt off to show that he does indeed keep in very good shape, and he simply walks up to this woman, says, "I need to sleep. You do too." She tries to protest that she's not that kind of girl, and he just picks up her car keys and puts them in her hand, smiles, and tells her effectively to get lost. That is nothing if not a completely dominant, completely cocksure move. His complete dominance and yet complete rejection of her clearly sends the attorney into a bit of a spin, as she has no idea what he's going to do next.

Tom Cruise's Reacher is quiet, unassuming, and preternaturally aware of the actions of people around him. He is observant to an almost scary degree. And he has the ability to disappear whenever he chooses- simply going off the grid, not letting anyone find him unless he wants to be found. Above all, he seems simply to want to be left alone.

Without reading too much into what is otherwise just a damn good movie, I will simply say this: if you want to begin to understand the Sigma archetype in real life, Jack Reacher, the film, would not be a bad place to start.

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