The movie “Gone Baby Gone” is an example of the moral dilemma of doing right things for right reasons. At the end of the movie, the main character, a detective Patrick Kenzie, has to answer the question what is morally right and what is good. This question can be analyzed from the point of view of Kant’s doctrines about moral duty, maxim, good will, reason, and the practical and categorical imperatives (Voeller 14).
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In one of the final scenes of the movie, Patrick faces the kidnapper Jack Doyle who defends himself by stating that the mother of Amanda, the kidnapped child, is irresponsible, immature and actively uses drugs (Southwell 8). However, Patrick does not agree with Jack thereby supporting Kant’s first premise, which claims that a person acts morally if his or her conduct would, without condition, be the “right” conduct for any person in similar circumstances (Kleingeld 35). Thus, Patrick says that Amanda must be with her real family no matter how bad this family is and that it is his duty to return her. He also says that if the mother does not look after her child, the social services must decide that problem (Southwell 8).
Additionally, the dialogue between Patrick and Jack also supports Kant’s second premise, which states that conduct is “right” if it treats others (or yourself) as an ends in themselves (or yourself) and not as a means to an end (Kleingeld 39). Patrick asks Jack whether the fact that he has made the wrong action but for the right reason, makes him feel better. Jack says that he does not regret what he has done and that he has done it for the child. In his turn, Patrick reproaches him for saving the child from her own mother adding that it is not for him to decide. However, Patrick firmly believes that despite the fact that Helene is a bad mother, she is a mother after all, and the child must be with her mother. She is an ends but not a means to an end for him (Southwell 10).
Finally, Patrick supports Kant’s third premise, which states that a person acts morally when he or she acts as if his or her conduct is establishing a universal law governing others in similar circumstances (Kleingeld 44). Patrick ignores reasons and logic when he decides to return Amanda to her mother, even though he understands that it would be better for Amanda to stay with Jack and his family. On the other hand, if Patrick supported Jack and decided to leave the child with Jack, he would enable a universal law that would allow abducting or stealing children from their parents even though they raise them bad and do not care about them (Voeller 61).
In conclusion, it can be mentioned that in the movie “Gone Baby Gone”, all the main characters are depicted as an ends not as a means to an end. The moral theme of the movie is focused on making difficult decisions, following our duties, and thinking of the reasons. With the help of Kant’s ethics, in difficult situations, we, having our own moral values, can decide what is good and what is morally right (Voeller 152).
Kleingeld, Pauline. Kant on ‘Good’, the Good, and the Duty to Promote the Highest Good. The Highest Good in Kant’s Philosophy, vol. 107, no. 1, 2016, pp. 33-49.
Southwell, Deborah. Critical Analysis of ‘Gone Baby Gone’, Unpublished Manuscript, Griffith University, Logan, Queensland, Australia, 2013.
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Voeller, Carol Wirtschoch. The Metaphysics of the Moral Law: Kant’s Deduction of Freedom, Routledge, 2016.