The Death of Law: A Cinematic Vision
University of Arkansas Little Rock Law Review, Forthcoming
32 Pages Posted: 7 Jul 2009 Last revised: 8 Jul 2009
Date Written: July 6, 2009
Three recent films – Children of Men, V for Vendetta, and Minority Report – sound a warning call by painting stark and contrasting visions of life in the United States and Great Britain in the 21st century. Central to all three stories is the role of law as enforced by the state. Law’s importance to the narrative of film is nothing new. Because it has the power to both liberate and oppress, law presents a ready well of dramatic potential from which to draw inspiration. The movies studied here mine this potential well. The common fear that animates each of these works of art centers on the use of law as a tool of oppression. By projecting this future, the filmmakers hope to teach us something about ourselves in the present. Do they succeed?
This Article attempts to answer this question by examining the vision of law presented in the three films. The collective conclusions of the movies strike a pessimistic chord: in the future, the law will be dead. I offer critiques and counter-critiques of this prevailing vision. But no matter the reliability of film’s predictions about what lies ahead, the existence of the films is important in its own right. Criticism need not be accurate to be powerful. Even if darkness is not on the horizon, free societies would do well to periodically remind themselves of what darkness looks like.
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