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First Look: Tom Cruise Kicks Butt in New Orleans in Jack Reacher: Never Go Back

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David James

Tom Cruise is back.

Cruise, 53, returns as former military policeman and noted tough guy Jack Reacher in Jack Reacher: Never Go Back – and PEOPLE has the first look.

“I’ve never seen anybody more prepared both physically and mentally than Tom,” director Edward Zwick tells PEOPLE in this week’s issue. “He’s tireless and unbelievably focused.”

The film, which shot in New Orleans, follows Cruise as he aids an Army major (Cobie Smulders) accused of spying – while dealing with some deep-rooted personal issues of his own.

Tom Cruise, Judd Lormand and Jason Douglas
Chiabella James

And while Zwick says the sequel explores new aspects of the actor’s character and his relationships with those around him, one thing stays the same: Cruise showcases plenty of his signature do-it-yourself-stunts.

“It’s a pretty boring job to be Tom’s stunt double,” jokes Zwick. “He did all of his own stunts. It’s almost a hallmark of what he does. He does every bit of it himself.”

For more on Cruise and Jack Reacher, pick up the latest issue of PEOPLE, on newsstands Friday

Muhammad Ali on the cover of PEOPLE

But Zwick adds that Smulders had no problem keeping up with a pro like Cruise. “She does it all herself, too. She didn’t use a stunt double.”

Jack Reacher: Never Go Back, based on the best-selling Lee Child novels, hits theaters Oct. 21.