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Gone Baby Gone

Human actions are either moral or immoral. However, there has being an incessant debate as to what should determine the morality of an act. Is it its intentions or the outcomes? This prompted a number of renowned philosophers to advance theories that have attempted to demystify the raging debates. One such philosopher is Immanuel Kant who advanced an ethical theory that came to be known as the deontological theory. Kant’s theory is grounded on the assumption that one’s acts are morally right if the intentions of doing them are good regardless of the outcomes. That is why it is also referred to as the non-consequential theory. This essay expounds on a classical example of such a scenario where an initially well-meant act turns out to be a mess.

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Ben Affleck, the director of Gone, baby, Gone is well known for his good looks that give him an upper hand in front of the camera while acting. However, his prowess has extended to behind the scenes if the reception of this 115-minutes-of-screenplay film released in 2008 is anything to go by. The film is classical example of the moral dilemma that is experienced by different cultures. In this case, the film is shot against a backdrop of a Boston suburban but that could by typical of any dark corner of any place in urban America. This is because the underlying theme is universal- an act well meant might turn to hurt whomever it is meted out (Stephen par 9).

“I always believed that something you don’t choose makes you who you are… your neighborhood, your city and your family. I took pride in these things, as if they were an accomplishment. Our starting gates…The bodies around our souls…The city’s wrapped around those” (Patrick par 14). These are the words of Patrick, the central character in the film as it starts. He thought that the morality of actions was to be determined by his setting but this misconception is to be challenged in the drama that follows (IMDb par 4).

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As young private investigators, Patrick and his girl friend Angie are faced with the horror of two child abductions. Each abduction poses an overwhelming test of their moral judgment for Patrick. Three scenes stand out conspicuously in this moral dilemma. The first case occurs half way into the plot when Patrick is confronted by what appears to be the death of Amanda the very girl they are in a rescue mission for. In the chase, he stumbles on drug barons but does not kill any since his life is not in danger. He fakes a raid and in the process encounters a child molester, Corwin, who he believes has killed has killed the boy lying on the bathtub. Enraged, he shoots him at the back (IMDb par 2).

As the rescue for the abducted child proceeds, new revelations crop up. The mother is a drug mule, a drug addict who stole from her drug lord. Amanda’s abduction had being ordered by her maternal aunt since her mother had neglected her. Helene, Amanda’s mother feels trapped, as choices have to be made for her child neglect though she complains of the challenges she undergoes as a single mother. Patrick finds Amanda safe in her auntie’s care but Helene orders him to bring her home. He obediently does.

The morality of Patrick’s may be justified by Kant’s theory of ethics. This theory advocates for actions done in line of duty. As a matter of fact, Patrick was operating on orders from Helene, Amanda’s mother and therefore it was his duty to bring the child home whether that implied hurting the feelings of the Amanda's self-proclaimed volunteers. The act of taking Amanda back to her mother may not have augured well with the latter well-meant abductors but it Patrick had to do it because it was his duty. On the other hand, the abductors had good intentions of rescuing Amanda from her druggy mother. This was, according to Kant, a moral act but the consequences were not nice. They unraveled the other side of her mother as well as leaving behind a trail of people dead (Stephen par 15).

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Patrick realizes, going by the monologue at the end of the film, that what makes as who we are is the mistakes we make and who leave behind. The film highlights the flaws of the Kantian school of ethics due to its non-consequential nature (Angel’s fire par 14). As viewers, if Patrick’s actions were to be judged by the consequences, then the viewers might even be justified in labeling him a villain since he left behind a trail of victims and many blunders including the gross one of taking back Amanda to her neglectful mother. No wonder he pays it all by becoming her baby sitter.

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