Table of contents

Jack Reacher

On the life of the most just man, & concerning whether it is desirable

Jack Reacher was once an agent of the laws. It was his duty to do justice by investigating allegations of crime in a war zone. He sees there some criminal destroying other, worse criminals accidentally. It is easier to see whether good comes of something than whether it is right to do it. He also sees that the army sometimes prefers order to justice.

Justice protects the freedom of the men of war from the chaos of war. Doing justice is the trump of moral virtue: Men are free to act as they will, therefore they are responsible for their actions. The center of morality is choice; the center of law, however, is punishment. One day Reacher decided he had fought for his country’s freedoms long enough & now he wanted to see for what he had been fighting. Maybe he was homesick.

Years pass; Reacher, a drifter, one day sees on the news that a man has been arrested for killing a number of people. He knows that man & has promised him justice. Now, he wants to deliver. He is surprised that everyone thinks he is that man’s friend. He is nobody’s friend. Nobody would believe he has no personal interest in the matter. We wonder whether Reacher even knows what is good for him.

As soon as he shows up in this anonymous city, so does chaos. In this city, Reacher confronts something that may interest us. There is a prosecutor who always gets his conviction. He scares people into pleading guilty by threatening to ask for the death penalty. This way, he’s never lost a case, nor is he likely to lose one. This is a crass, but not a misleading statement of how the police works, always & everywhere. Reacher is not impressed, but he is not appalled.

Then there’s a lawyer, the prosecutor’s daughter, whom he calls idealistic. She wants justice, she wants her father to stop bullying people. She wants, in short, to defend the criminal Reacher has come to bury. It is strange to see that Reacher is attracted to this woman. It is also strange to see him help her. But he is not naïve; his first test is to have her talk to the victims’ families.

The conflict emerges because there is a man who would do anything to survive; murder & theft are the facts of life, so far as he’s concerned; this man stumbles on Reacher, who will do anything for justice. This may be the only time you have seen a villain & a hero who so well fit their old names. The nobility of Reacher is concealed from everyone, including his enemy. This should startle you.

Tom Cruise’s latest thriller. Go see it.