Еssay on a Time to Kill – a cruel story of hope…

A Time to Kill is a book written by John Grisham in late 1980s. The themes of justice, racial discriminations and punishment guaranteed the popularity to the story. Seven years later the film version of the book was short. Brilliant direction and actors’ playing did a good job while turning the book into the movie and the results were fairly appreciated by the audience. In addition Grisham, who insisted on his participation in the script writing and was listed like one of four producers, didn’t let the main ideas and themes of the books to be perverted during the shooting process.

The movie touches many important issues, uncovers many social problems and puts the racial problem in the focus of our attention again. May be the themes are not new and are uncovered by many authors before but till the problems spotlighted in the movie exist, the themes of racism, social justice and capital punishment will be in the focus of attention. May be some scenes and details are exaggerated in the movie but I believe that the artist has his right for creative approach in order to attract the attention of the public to the problem and show the shocking reality not in order to frighten and make us afraid, but to make us think and provoke the wish to change the reality.  Ten year old black girl Tanya is beaten and raped but her assailants are very likely to come back without being imprisoned. Tonya’s father, Carl Lee decides to restore the justice and kills the rappers before the eyes of multiple witnesses. A long process under Carl starts where his attorneys are threatened by Ku Klux Klan. The central question of the movie which keeps the attention of the audience is a question if a black man, such as Carl Lee can get a fair trial in the court where everybody, including judges, juries and attorneys are white. The situation is complicated by the fact that he has killed two white men. Carl hires a white attorney in a hope that he would be able to see the case from the same point as white juries and judge. “You see me as they see me,” Carl tells to his attorney making the stress on the abyss that divides blacks and whites and different norms of justice and double-standards presented in the society. The incident splits the society into blacks and whites, poor and rich who stand for their beliefs. Jake Brigance presents a romantic hero who still believes in fair laws and fair trials free of racial discrimination and division into the blacks and the whites and who finds himself in a very difficult situation when he faces all the unfairness and hypocrisy of the society. Ellen Roark, his energetic assistant does a perfect job helping him to ruin the wall of incomprehension and prejudice. The audience is caught by the complex and twisted relationship between Carl Lee and Jake Brigance. So different, they have to find the way to understand each other and we see step by step how they change their attitude to each other after some time spent together. One common goal unites them and makes them act as the whole unite. And finally we come to an unexpected conclusion: these people, who seemed to have nothing in common in the very beginning, are not so different in reality and there is something more that common cause which unites them. Generous and brave hearts, which are not afraid to challenge the whole society, they reach the success together and so expected, so desired words not guilty are pronounced by the juries.

Matthew McConaughey, who plays Jake Brigance accomplishes his task brilliantly showing the wonderful combination of natural talent and deep understanding of his task.  Sandra Bullock is very appealing playing Ellen and shows a wonderful incarnations of the author’s ideas. Samuel L. Jackson presents a perfect combination of grief and rebel while expressing his character Carl Lee a former combat vet who challenges the whole society. The supporting cast includes such celebrities, as Ashley Judd, Kevin Spacey, Donald Sutherland, Charles S. Dutton, and M. Emmett Walsh.

But the movie penetrates deeper that the social issues and racial problems of the society. It makes us think on the more important question. It makes us realize the difference between social justice and moral justice. We know that Carl Lee is accused of the double murder and we know that the murder is a social crime. But deep inside our hearts can not blame Carl and eagerly want him to be discarded despite the crime committed. Emotional feeling of fairness doesn’t always correspond to the legal one. The authors make us all admit that even murder can be justified. This probably shows that being humans means listening to our hearts and following the moral draws rather than blind following the written rules and regulations.

The story described has a happy ending due to several enthusiasts, such as attorney Brigance and his assistant Ellen Roark but leaves the questions to the audience. What would happen to Carl Lee if he wasn’t lucky enough to have Jake as his attorney? Why does Jake have to ask the juries to imagine the white girl instead of poor Tonya in order to make them sympathetic? How long will the racism and segregation show their ugly faces and make the innocent people the victims of the prejudices of the past? The movie doesn’t give the answers to these questions but it does another important task. It makes us think about them and doesn’t leave us indifferent. And this is the first step to resolve them.

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