The movie is a screen version of the novel by John Grisham that came on screen seven years after the book was published. The plot follows the novel pretty strictly, however, still contains some new characters and additional ideas.
A Time to Kill is the story of the father of 10-year-old black girl that was beaten and raped by two rednecks. Both abusers were caught and stood in were to stand in front of the court that was likely to find them not guilty. Instead of sitting and waiting for the court decision the Viet veteran takes his M 16 and executes his own justice by gunning down both of the abusers in front of dozens of people right in the court building.
Being arrested he chooses white lower who starts his defense trying to prove that the double murder was the result of temporary madness. However, it is Carl Lee Hailey (the father) who makes jury unlikely to believe that it is really so.
At the point of the trail the KKK becomes involved in the plot. It is said that they threaten the entire Hailey’s family. By this, the first major race issue is touched. Further the issue is covered more broadly through the action of the lawyer that uses the fact that his client is African-American and tries to prove that if the father and the daughter were white the jury would have considered the case in the entirely different way. By using the race issue the lawyer manages to turn the case the way that only a completely heartless racist could find the man guilty (A Time to Kill, 1996).
It fact, that illustrates the triumph of senses above justice but gives the viewer a good filling of happy end. From the other hand that fact raises the fragile issue of race. By including the what-if-the-man-was-white technique in the defender’s speech the author of the script shows the racial problems that exist in the society. From one hand, by using that technique the lawyer one way or another indirectly accuses the jury in being racist. From the other, the jury can’t be objective any more since being white people they might be accused in being racist not indirectly but rather very directly.
The issue of the capital punishment is also touched and discussed in the movie. However, it is easy to note that no strict and direct conclusion is drawn about the problem.
Generally speaking there are many issue that are covered by the movie. At the same time the movie is a bit oversaturated with the characters (some of them can be dismissed and that wouldn’t effect the story in either way).
The directors work can be highly estimated and it is also interesting that unlike many movies A Time to Kill follows the original novel rather close.
“A Time to Kill”, 1996. Joel Schumacher.
Fields, Suzanne. Frontier Justice – the New Morality. Insight on the News. Vol. 13. Is. 5. February 10, 1997. P. 48.
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