Monday, November 8, 2010

How does one weigh human life?: The Rock and Humanity

Aside from the outrageous car chases and gun battles particular to all Michael Bay films, I felt that the movie The Rock (1996) also offered some insightful moments on life and the human condition. During the President’s speech toward the end of the movie, he posed the question: “How does one weigh human life?” While this question has divided philosophers throughout the ages, this movie offers an opinion along the lines of not judging a book by its cover.

For example, if we were take Mason (Sean Connery’s character) at face value, we’d see a grimy convict and former inmate of Alcatraz who, at one time possessed the power to blackmail the American government. Any random person on the street would probably say that he deserves to be in prison for the rest of his life. If we were to assess General Hummel in the same fashion, we’d find one of the finest war heroes America has ever seen, receiving multiple purple hearts and the Congressional Medal of Honor.
The point behind these assessments is because their roles are reversed in this film. In The Rock, the war hero is the one terrorizing America, and the lives of millions of people are dependent upon a team of soldiers led by a convict. In one particular scene of the movie, Mason is walking down Broadway, where all the hostages are imprisoned. The hostages are reaching out of their cells towards him, asking for help from this man who, in another circumstance, they would all gladly condemn to their same holding
cells. I think this scene shows that every human being is capable of good, even if his or her reputation speaks otherwise. So while there are several different ways people try to weigh one human life against another, the solution this film proposes is that it shouldn’t be done. Even the best of people are capable of evil, and a hero could be found in the most unlikely of places or circumstances.


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