The Moral Dilemma Dialogue (MDD) is a regular feature we have in which we look at one film and break down one or more moral dilemmas presented in it. We’ll ask all the penetrating questions: Was the right choice made in the film? What would you do? Could it have been avoided? And most importantly we will examine what the Bible has to say about the various topics we come across in movies.
We need your suggestions for films to review for the MDD! Have a movie in mind that you think presents an interesting moral dilemma? Include it in the comments section below and we will do our best to give it a look and put it under the microscope in the Moral Dilemma Dialogue. Thanks!
Alan Turing’s story is one of incredible impact as the man responsible for breaking the Enigma machine and giving the allied forces huge leverage in World War II. But the road to victory didn’t come without crossing some deep waters. Namely, the dilemma of weighing the lives of the few vs. the lives of the many. That is the dilemma presented in Imitation Game, and the is what Nate and Logan discuss here.
Maggie Fitzgerald has dreams of becoming the female boxing champion. She seeks out one of the best trainers in the business, Frankie Dunn. Frankie takes her fully under his wing as a daughter of sorts, teaching her to always protect herself as he vicariously lives out some fatherly moments. In the championship fight, Maggie is injured to the point of full paralysis. She is restricted to a respirator for the rest of her life. In the months ahead her legs are also amputated due to lack of movement and blood circulation. Frankie sticks by her through all of this, but it is at this point when she asks him to do the unthinkable: end her life for her.
Tim Thomas (known as “Ben” through most of the film) is haunted by the seven lives he’s responsible for taking, including that of his wife. Looking for redemption, he devises a plan to save seven other lives of those whom he determines to be good people. This plan however will come at the cost of his own life, and he’s fully aware of that. Thomas meticulously plans each step in the process. He enlists the help of his best friend to see it all through once he has passed. What he didn’t plan on was falling in love with the one whom he would give his heart to, literally. Thomas follows through with his plan, and kills himself so others may live.
Jean Valjean is a released prisoner who skipped parole and established a new life for himself as a factory owner and mayor of Paris. He employs women to make clothing and gives them a means to provide a living for themselves. Trouble is, the officer who set him free is still on the search for prisoner 46201 (Valjean) ever since he skipped his parole. When Valjean gets word that another man is believed to be prisoner 46201 and receive the punishment due to him, he must decide what to do; fess up that he is truly the one they’ve been searching for and turn himself in, or let another man suffer the consequences of his actions.
In Saving Private Ryan there is a scene where Captain Miller and his company come across a small Nazi encampment. They can go around and continue with their mission, or attempt to take it out. They decide to descend upon their enemies and are successful in taking it out. In the midst of the firefight Medic Wade is shot in the abdomen and, after a heart wrenching attempt to save him, he dies. His death sparks anger amongst his fellow soldiers. It is determined (somehow) that the man on the machine gun was the one that shot Wade. Capt. Miller and all the rest of his men, except one, immediately move to kill this man, later known as “steamboat Willie”. The following minutes of the film involve a tense and heated discussion on what to do with Willie: kill him on the spot, or let him go free.
Special people known as “pre-cogs” can peer into the future and notify the police of any major crimes that were yet to be committed. The guilty parties, before they could commit the act for which they were judged guilty, were arrested before any harm could be done. Sounds great, right? I dunno though, I seem to recall some famous quote, something about how power corrupts… I forget the rest. It goes without saying that this futuristic scenario on display in Minority Report, however unlikely, presents a very interesting dilemma. This particular dilemma is one that may well play out differently depending on your outlook on life. If, as Christian’s hold to, you believe that you will one day answer to a higher power with an objective standard of morals, you may feel a certain way about this dilemma. If however, you believed that morals were simply a social construct, or that they were determined on an individual basis, you may have completely different feelings about this.
In the final scene, Harvey Dent and Batman having fallen from about 4 stories. Dent dies from the fall. He had already killed five people and whatever hope of prosecuting countless other criminals had just died with him and his reputation. Batman decides however to keep this truth a secret. Batman says, “They can never know. I killed those people.” Detective Gordon naturally objects to this plan, exclaiming that that’s not who Batman is! Batman and Gordon decide to protect the truth with a lie. A lie they both believe is better for everyone than the consequences of the truth. But, was that the right and morally correct thing to do? Was this lie justified, or do Gordon and Batman now have the same blood on their hands that Dent does? That is the dilemma we’ll be discussing.
Probably THE biggest issue people had with Man of Steel was Superman’s destructive fight with General Zod, particularly how that fight ended. (I warned you… spoilers…) Superman is faced with the aged-old dilemma of choosing to take the life of one in order to save the lives of many. As Zod is using his heat-vision and nearly has his gaze set on an innocent family, Superman does what he has never done, at least in the traditional Christopher Reeves/comic-book history: He takes General Zod’s life, snapping his neck before he can burn the family to a crisp. Of course, this is after they both have crashed through dozens of sky-scraper, ripping them in half resulting in the presumed death of who knows how many, but nevermind that. That is the dilemma we are dissecting here: Is it morally acceptable to take the life of one in order to save the lives of many others? Better yet, if you were in Superman’s position in that moment, what would you do?
While walking home from the grocery store, 10-year old black girl Tonya Hailey is kidnapped by two white men, Billy Ray Cobb and Pete Willard. The men brutally rape, beat and hang her, leaving her for dead in a creek. Tonya’s father, Carl Lee Hailey, begins to think about these men being brought to justice. He decides to take justice into his own hands, and guns the men down before they can face a single day in court. Revenge killing is not something you typically hear approval of, but many can sympathize and even approve of what Carl Lee did in this film. It presents to the audience a moral dilemma centered around vengeance. Was Carl Lee justified in his actions, murdering the men who raped and nearly murdered his daughter? That is the focus of this moral dilemma dialogue.