Sunday, February 23, 2003


I recently watched Changing Lanes, a suspense thriller starring Samuel Jackson and Ben Affleck. The film's premise revolves around one morning when lawyer Ben Affleck meets a traffic accident with beleagured litigant Samuel Jackson. As a result of the incident, Asfleck inadvertently leaves a very important document with Samuel whom Affleck leaves to be in ocurt on time. Of course, Samuel was too late for his hearing. As a result, the judge hearing his family case allows his ex-wife and kids to move to another state where parental visits are impossible.The two play a little war as Affleck tries to recover the document with all his lawyerly wit and connections and Samuel tries to get even and make Affleck's life misearble by being a little murderous like removing the screws in the front tires of Affleck's BMW.

The film attempts to bring the premise to the ethical level when it is later revealed that the document appears to have been signed by a rich old man on his death bed under the influence of Affleck. The document also happens to turn over the control of multi-million dollar foundation to Affleck's bosses. So Affleck's partners suggest that the document be re-printed and the old man's signature for another document be used instead. Affleck bulks. The moral dilemna is now whether Mr. Affleck should present a forged document in court as he appears to be losing his little war with Samuel. Mr. Senior Partner gives him a little speech that it is okay to do it because in the end he does more good than bad. Of course, Affleck decides too late as the Senior Partner submits the forged document anyway without Affleck knowing it.

After watching this film, I was disturbed by this message: It is okay to do bad as long as in the end you do more good. All of a sudden, ethics has become a question of quantity; plus or minus, credit or debit, or withdrawal or deposit. This proposition, of course,
presents a world view that morality is a numbers game and ignores that fact that morality is always grounded on higher values. Nobody can play math with faith, love and hope. How would you like to tell your wife that since you only cheated her for one year and you've been faithful for four years, ultimately you love her more? Isn't the question really whether you love her or you don't? Are you good or are you evil? If you choose good, you don't choose anything else. There is a fundamental option to do good.

Changing Lanes is a well-made film. Unfortunately, people who are longing for spiritual nourishment will get a little doze of poison here.

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