Home > Hollywood > Ah Those Moral Dilemmas !!

Ah Those Moral Dilemmas !!

There are films that wow us and then there are those that make us all go quiet…oh, for those first ten minutes after they have ended…forcing us to look into our inner selves, making us do some soul-searching of our own and having us think!!  They pose a moral dilemma that leads us to question ourselves and our actions, had we found ourselves being confronted by a similar situation.

 There are four such movies come to mind instantly, even though I’m sure that there are plenty more of the likes.  The first one is “The Accused” starring Jodie Foster in an Oscar-winning performance.  Here was a chilling movie about a rape victim whose goes back to court after her culprits are let off with light sentences due to questions raised by the defense on the victim’s character.  But this time, she goes after not her rapists but the onlookers…the “audience” who were present in the bar when the heinous crime was being committed…the people who either stood still or cheered, but never intervened or did anything to stop it.  Yes, what the rapists did was a ghastly deed but what the folks who were present did NOT do was unforgivable.  I would ask you the same question I asked myself when the movie ended: What would I do if I was caught in such a situation?

 The next film that had me thinking was Rob Reiner’s wonderful “A Few Good Men” — where Jack Nicholson’s “You Can’t Handle The Truth” virtually brought poor Tom Cruise to tears. 🙂 This is a film that has been seen by a fairly wide audience…a tense courtroom drama, where layers after layers are peeled as more and more characters are questioned regarding the death of a Private First Class (Pfc) on duty.  But its the revelations at the end of the movie, made by Nicholson’s Colonel Jessop that make you sit up and ponder over whether the “Code Red” action was justified or not.  Of course, the Private died during the procedure, but that was never the intent.  The intent was to just “teach him a lesson”.  We have all heard stories about how “pride and punishment” are dealt with and how paramount discipline is, in the armed forces.  The question is:  When is it too much and too far?

 Then comes Russell Crowe’s depiction of Jeffrey Wigand in Michael Mann’sThe Insider“….that amazing true retelling of the story of a Big Tobacco man who became a whistle-blower because of what he saw at the tobacco company and did not like.  The issues brought up in the film are as real and topical today as they were when the Jeffrey Wigand story unfolded on CBS.  He was fired, his family was threatened, he almost backed off like a broken man…but then regained the strength and went ahead and appeared on TV.  He did, however, lose a lot in the bargain.  Which begets the question:  Was it the right thing to do?  What would YOU do when confronted with such a dilemma in your life?  Will you continue to be part of it, as a silent spectator?  Will you turn into an Informant (and be prepared to face any downstream consequences)?  Or will you simply walk away..quietly?

 Last but not the least comes my personal favorite…Ben Affleck’s directorial debut “Gone Baby Gone” starring his brother Casey Affleck, Ed Harris and Morgan Freeman.  What a great picture!!  And its based on the book by Dennis Lehane who also wrote “Mystic River” and the upcoming Martin Scorsese/Leonardo DiCaprio thriller “Shutter Island“.  Here is a film that unfolds at its own pace….its about detective Casey and his partner investigating the disappearance of a four-yr old girl in a gritty Boston neighborhood.  I won’t discuss the film any more….all I would say is that “Go Rent it and Watch it !!”.  I have my opinions on the culmination of the story and on the choices made by some of the characters….but I would love to hear from some of you as well.  This one is truly a must watch!!

 I’m sure that there are lots of other films that I have not discussed here….from the likes of “A Civil Action” to “Erin Brokovich” and “Rendition“.  Surely films are meant to entertain us, to make us have a good time…maybe not far, but definitely away from the “maddening crowd”.  But I personally have the most fun at the movies when it tickles my mind and my handful of brain cells…when I discuss it later with the likes of all of you and say “Now that was a darn good story…masterfully told !!”.  Don’t get me wrong…I still enjoy watching the “Spidermans” and “The Hangovers“.  But give me a choice between an “Avatar” and a “Michael Clayton” and I know exactly where I’m going.

 Until next time…

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Categories: Hollywood
  1. January 25, 2010 at 3:38 pm

    A Few Good Men is a long time favorite of mine.

    Awesome exchange between Kaffee and Jessep

    Jessep: You want answers?
    Kaffee (Tom Cruise): I think I’m entitled to them.
    Jessep: You want answers?
    Kaffee: I want the truth!
    Jessep: You can’t handle the truth! Son, we live in a world that has walls. And those walls have to be guarded by men with guns. Who’s gonna do it? You? You, Lt. Weinberg? I have a greater responsibility than you can possibly fathom. You weep for Santiago and you curse the Marines. You have that luxury. You have the luxury of not knowing what I know: that Santiago’s death, while tragic, probably saved lives. And my existence, while grotesque and incomprehensible to you, saves lives…You don’t want the truth. Because deep down, in places you don’t talk about at parties, you want me on that wall. You need me on that wall.
    We use words like honor, code, loyalty…we use these words as the backbone to a life spent defending something. You use ’em as a punchline. I have neither the time nor the inclination to explain myself to a man who rises and sleeps under the blanket of the very freedom I provide, then questions the manner in which I provide it! I’d rather you just said thank you and went on your way. Otherwise, I suggest you pick up a weapon and stand a post. Either way, I don’t give a damn what you think you’re entitled to!
    Kaffee: Did you order the code red?
    Jessep: (quietly) I did the job you sent me to do.
    Kaffee: Did you order the code red?
    Jessep: You’re goddamn right I did!!

    • January 26, 2010 at 2:05 am

      Thanks for posting the conversation, Ajit. This is indeed one helluva exchange we’ve seen between two protagonists on screen in a long, long time. Bang on!!

  2. arun verma
    January 29, 2010 at 3:24 pm

    Great writeup! My fav among the “moral dilemma” films is “12 angry men” or ek ruka hua faisal – a masterful hindi adaptation of a western movie for a change!

    Did you watch Soderbergh’s latest – the informant? now that was a quirky take on a major moral dilemma!

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