The 1992 movie “A Few Good Men” contains many ethical conflicts with all the main characters. There are two main ethical dilemmas in the movie, one is with Tom Cruise’s character and the other is with Jack Nicholson’s Character.
The movie is about a young military layer named Lt. Kaffee played by Tom Cruise who is assigned to defend two United States Marines namely Lance Corporal Dawson and Private First Class Downey on the charges of murder. The victim of the case was a young private named PFC William R, Santiago who wished to come home and be discharged from his base located in Cuba.
The commanding officer of Santiago played by Jack Nicholson named Colonel Jessup did not like the fact that Santiago could not conform to military norms and is constantly sending letters about a possible cover up going on in the base of Cuba. Colonel Jessup made an underground cover to Downey and Dawson to do a “code red” to Santiago.
The term “code red” basically means to beat some sense in to a soldier who is not following orders and performing the way they should do. During this “code red” assignment, Santiago was killed accidentally. He died because of lactic acidosis triggered by the assault inflicted by Dawson and Downey. Colonel Jessup blamed the entire thing on Dawson and Downey and tried to cover up the code red by forging fake letters for Santiago.
This case involves an ethical dilemma for the following reasons: 1. A murder has been committed.
It is not acceptable to take human life merely because this individual doesn’t get along with the rest of them. 2. The investigation of the murder is stalled. It is acceptable to lie about the cause of death in an effort to preserve public relations or for personal gain. 3. Cadets and officers in this movie lie under oath in court which is unacceptable. A sub-group in the military cannot just make its own rules of military morality. In the movie, PFC Santiago is treated as a means rather than being treated as an end. The murder was immoral in any sense and to those people causing the murder should be punished to the fullest extent of the law. In addition, it is also unacceptable for a cover-up of the murder. Their actions are not for the preservation of military. Their actions and lies are merely for preservation of the positions. Colonel Jessup uses an intense form of punishment for the smallest mistakes and flaws which is not justifiable.
In the movie, Corporal Dawson keeps on explaining that the “code red” is based upon “unit, corps, God Country”. This is very wrong and this is the reason why there are so many illegal activities and mistakes in the military field. In Cuba, disobeying an order implies to committing a crime. Nevertheless, since code red is a practice greatly discouraged of the law, it is the duty of the marine to disobey such an order. When an institution mandate complete faith in its principles, the individuals within the institution are reliant on it. At the case in the movie, we are asked: which is more important? Guiding principles of life of humans or code of honor? In conclusion, Dawson and Downey performed their duty as was expected of them. On ethical grounds, the two of them should have been better of notifying the authorities of the nature of order that was given to them.
In a movie like ‘A Few Good Men”, sympathy is given to the accused soldiers and the people watching the movie rooted for them and wanted to see then acquitted. Just watching this movie, everyone had an idea that these men were in fact innocent of the charges they are accused of. This type of viewing makes movies interesting to watch because people get to decide for themselves who should be the guilty and not guilty. Sadly, not all outcomes of real trials work this way and perhaps innocent people in real life have serve more time in prison.
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