Million Dollar Baby
Directed by Clint Eastwood
Commentary by Kevin Miller
choices you don’t want to make,” says Scrap,
the one-time heavyweight contender who narrates this
film. Unfortunately, his boss, boxing trainer Frankie
Dunn, is about to be presented with a real doozie.
doesn’t appear that way at first. In fact, had
I not been aware of all the controversy surrounding this
film, I would have been disappointed that a brilliant director
like Clint Eastwood had devoted his time to what was turning
out to be a compelling but not quite innovative boxing
movie. And then, right when the formula calls for a “Rocky-like” character
to start shouting “Adrian! Adrian!” with his/her
eyes swollen shut and arms raised in victory, Eastwood
pulls the old “one-two” and knocks us face-first
onto the canvas.
the world finally comes into focus, we find ourselves
in a completely different moral landscape.
Up to this point,
the film has revolved around a traditional win/lose axis.
Now we are in life and death territory, and it doesn’t
look like there’s any escape—at least none
that would cost Frankie anything less than his soul.
it seems like I’m dancing around this film’s
subject matter, that’s because I am. Any other
tack would ruin the viewing experience for those who
yet know the story. At the same time, it is difficult
to address the compelling questions this film raises
giving away the big plot twist. So if you haven’t
seen the movie yet, perhaps you should save the rest
of this review for later. If you have seen the film
eager to dig deeper into its themes, read on.
me start by saying that, sadly, the response
of many Christian
critics to this film has been as predictable
as a thunderstorm in Saskatchewan. You could see
for miles, and it was all dark clouds and thunder.
The fact that Eastwood dared to even broach the topic
euthanasia seems to have offended them as much as
it offended the
priest Frankie consults in this film. And, like the
priest, rather than take a thoughtful, compassionate
to the issue and the people involved, these reviewers
remind us of the consequences—the rules, as
then leave us to our own devices. However, I think
these particular reviewers are reading this movie
Even though Frankie turns compassionate executioner
in the end, I do not see Million Dollar Baby as an
of euthanasia by any stretch. In fact, I have yet
to see a film that does such an effective job of
question and then allowing us to form our own conclusions,
rather than hitting us over the head with an opinion.
With this film, Eastwood is not offering an endorsement
suicide. He is saying that it is a complicated subject
that raises more questions than answers; that it
looks a lot different when you are face-to-face with
begging to die than it does on paper.
of the questions Million Dollar Baby raised in my mind
Is there a pain so great that it
reason for living? Can the Angel of Mercy ever
look like the Angel of Death? Can the face of the executioner
be the face of God? Did Frankie deliver Maggie
hell or deliver her (and himself) to it? When do
of Man become the hands of God? When do they become
of the devil? And how can we know the difference?
The priest in this film
says that sometimes we need to
step out of
the way and let God do his work. But aren’t
agents on earth? As Scrap says several times in
this film, “In
boxing, everything is backwards.” What about
life? Perhaps instead of stepping out of the way
in such circumstances,
God is waiting for us to step in and do his work.
After all, we have the power to end the life of
a fellow human
being. Isn’t it possible that there are some
instances in which exercising this power is not
a sin but a blessing?
Many people think so when it comes to war, capital
punishment, and abortion. Why not euthanasia?
anyone think I am endorsing euthanasia in this
review, I am not. I’m not advocating against
it either though, because, frankly, I haven’t
answered the above questions well enough for
myself. However, I do know that as I watched
Frankie bend over and kiss Maggie one last time,
he had no motive other than love in his heart.
I also realized
that no matter how miserable she was, there was
no way I could have brought myself to reduce
this beautiful, spirited
girl to nothing but a cold lump of flesh. It
just goes to show that when it comes to life
emotions can cloud your judgment. At other times,
they make things perfectly clear.
is correct. No one wants to face a choice like this.
with the “right to die” movement
growing in strength, I am thankful that Eastwood
used this film
to give the question of assisted suicide the
moral gravity and attention it deserves.
@ 2005 Kevin Miller