Ethical dilemmas only really occur when values that are held equally dearly come into conflict with each other and cannot be resolved by protecting both. For example, a mother is pregnant but continuing with the pregnancy threatens the life of the mother. If you believe that both mother and baby are equally human and have an equal right to life, what do you do? Do you terminate the pregnancy or allow the mother to die to save the child’s life? It is impossible to choose without having to undermine at least one equally held value. Ben Affleck, in his movie Gone Baby Gone, powerfully confronts us with a series of such ethical dilemmas.
When four-year-old Amanda McCready goes missing, Patrick Kenzie (Casey Affleck) and Angie Gennaro (Michelle Monaghan), two private investigators, are called in to help by the child’s aunt (Amy Madigan). She is worried that the police are not going to be successful in finding her niece and Patrick and Angie are experienced in finding missing people -- at least, those who choose to go missing -- not those who are kidnapped. As they investigate, they uncover a tangled web of crime that brings them into danger and challenges their morality to its core.
Gone Baby Gone is an intelligent crime/thriller that is, at times, difficult to watch. There is pervasive coarse language, high-level violence, and drug use. But somehow, all these fit with the context of the story. These are real people dealing with real moral dilemmas. Ben Affleck should be congratulated on producing a movie that is driven by these moral conundrums rather than special effects. Gone Baby Gone also ranges over other issues such as the nature of parenting and the role of child care services. Affleck has evoked excellent performances from his actors and the dialogue is tight and powerful.
The power of Gone Baby Gone is evidenced by the conversations that occurred following the cinema showing I attended as people discussed what they would do in the circumstances portrayed. (Note: This film is now available on DVD in the U.S.)
If you think you can handle the language and violence of this movie, then go see it. It will have you thinking for days after. So often, within Christian circles, we discuss moral decisions as if there is no question how we should decide. If that happens, then I would hazard to say that we are not living in the real world where morality is not so black and white. A moral dilemma is just that - a dilemma full of ambiguities. Trying to choose what is right when the choices are significant is never going to be easy. And given that, it is almost impossible to judge the choices of others.
Steve Parker reviews movies and books and comments on things of interest to Christians who are thoughtful about their faith on his blog, Thinking Christian, where this review was first published. He writes from Adelaide, Australia.
This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at http://spectrummagazine.org/node/741