Film Friday: Jack Reacher – Never Go Back

In spite of the advice in the title, drifter and hard man Jack Reacher does in fact go back, to his old life in the army. He is primarily looking for a date with an old flame, Captain Turner, but what he finds is that she has been arrested for spying. So what does Jack do? Use his charm and persuasive reasoning powers to argue her defence? Not really. He does this instead.

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Reacher solves most of his problems with a fist and a handgun. He’s not a criminal though, just a tough guy with a strong sense of justice. He knows what’s right and won’t let a few meat-headed thugs get in the way. He busts Turner out of prison and they team up to catch the bad guys and sort out the wrong from the right. This is not the most subtle of cinema but if you want to escape for a few hours from the red tape of life then this’ll do it. This kind of story fits into something called The myth of redemptive violence – the idea that there is good and bad violence and that the bad violence can be outdone by the good. I’m not arguing one way or the other, but this is certainly something that features in some Bible stories. Think David, Goliath and a sling, or Jael, Sisera and a tent peg, or Ehud, Eglon and a dagger in the gut.

Ehud is a not unlike Jack Reacher. (Have a look at Judges 3 vv 12-23 for the full story.) The people have lost their way and as a result they are being enslaved by a corrupt tyrant. Ehud is a man with a keen and swift sense of justice. He doesn’t mess about. Like Reacher he busts into the bad guys lair, tricks him with a whisper, and buries a concealed none-too-blunt instrument into his gut. The bad guys keels over and Ehud triumphs, escaping through a sewage pipe. Though I’m not a fan of violence there is something pleasing about these tales of the cruel bullies being felled by the fearless hero. George fights our battles and nukes the dragon all over again. Even the book of Revelation draws on this kind of image, the hero appears to John with a two-edge sword in his mouth. (See Revelation 1 v 20) The difference though, is that the sword represent the living word of God, sharper than any blade, cutting to the heart of truth and justice, exposing us and our need of God. (Hebrews 4 v 12) This sword brings life, not death. It cuts us free from the things that would destroy us and the bonds that hold us back. I need Jesus to fight those battles for and with me, to help me in the daily bombardments of life. I’m no hero. My courage is small. But I’m heartened by the discovery that this king does not give up on his people. He fights on, riding out in the defense of truth, humility and justice.

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