My Favorite Movies #72 – A Time to Kill

A Time to Kill - PosterA Time to Kill

1996

Directed by Joel Schumacher

Netflix says… When two white men brutally rape a young black girl in a small Mississippi town, the child’s vengeful father (Samuel L. Jackson) fears their acquittal and takes the law into his own hands. But as his trial date approaches, all hell breaks loose. Aided by lawyer Jake Brigance (Matthew McConaughey) and his spunky legal assistant (Sandra Bullock), the father fights to stay out of prison and salve his daughter’s terrible memories.

  • Can I take a moment just to point out that this movie, which undeniably deserves this spot on my personal top 100 list, is directed by the same man who brought us Batman & Robin, a movie that deserves to be nowhere near anyone’s top 1,000 list?
  • You know, as great as I consider this movie and as moving as the story is, it sure is hard to watch.
  • And maybe that’s just because I’m only a minute into it and I know just what’s about to happen. And I know it’s brutal and unforgivable.
  • I’d really love to believe that this movie portrays the worst of the issues that we still see in America to this day. But I know that’s not true.
  • Because I know it is definitely worse.
  • How heartbreaking is it to hear Carl Lee’s daughter apologizing to her daddy for dropping the groceries?
  • Girl, you were just beaten, raped, and nearly killed by two redneck morons. No one cares about the groceries.
  • And, no, “redneck morons” is not a strong enough term to use to describe these characters. But I’d still like to keep my posts as family friendly as I can.
  • In spite of the subject matter of this film.
  • From a legal standpoint, Jake’s case for Carl Lee’s insanity at the time he committed the murders of those two redneck morons doesn’t have a leg to stand on.
  • Carl Lee all but spelled out his plan to Jake prior to carrying it out.
  • He waited in the courthouse all night waiting for the redneck morons to be escorted through the lobby.
  • It’s first degree murder, no way around it.
  • But I can’t sit here and tell you that, were I in his shoes, I wouldn’t be able to consider it anything other than justifiable homicide.
  • Wilbanks, Jake’s retired, alcoholic mentor, sums it all up with one line: “Lose this case and justice will prevail. Win this case and justice will also prevail.”
  • I do like how this story takes the time to deal with the fact that Carl Lee really can’t afford to pay for Jake to defend him in court. Most movies just force us to assume that everyone on trial can afford their attorney.
  • “Carl Lee Hailey is on trial because he’s black, no other reason.” Sorry, Reverend, but I’m gonna have to disagree.
  • Carl Lee is on trial because he took the law into his own hands. He killed two people in the middle of a courthouse lobby. That’s why he’s on trial. No other reason.
  • Between the KKK threatening or attacking everyone in connection to the trial and the trial proceedings themselves, the movie is just thrill after thrill.
  • And the trial itself is just filled with great scenes: Carl Lee on the stand, the injured sheriff’s deputy on the stand, the state’s crooked psychiatrist being knocked down a peg or two, Jake’s closing argument… All of it is fantastic.

If you haven’t seen A Time to Kill, get your hands on a copy and watch it. It really is difficult to stomach at times, but so is real life. Come back next week when we hit something a little more lighthearted with number 71 – You’ve Got Mail. It’s a little dated, sure. But it’s still a great look at how perception shapes our reality.

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