A Time To Kill (1996) – It leaves you with a lingering feeling of wanting to change the world.
It starts off with the violent rape of a ten year old black girl named Tonya (RaéVen Kelly) by two white men. Her father Carl Lee Hailey (Samuel L. Jackson) then murders the two rapists and is arrested after. A local white lawyer named Jake Brigance (Matthew McConaughey) agrees to defend Carl Lee along with the help of Ellen Roark (Sandra Bullock), a law student; Harry Vonner (Oliver Platt), a friend of his; and his mentor Lucien Wilbanks, played by the great Donald Sutherland.
What is it in us that seeks the truth? Is it our minds or is it our hearts?
Now on the opposing end is Kiefer Sutherland’s Freddie Lee Cobb, the brother of one of the rapists and an all-around racist. He joins the KKK (not the local kind*, the scary foreign kind) and terrorizes the lives of anybody who is willing to help Carl Lee. And D. A. Rufus Buckley (Kevin Spacey) wants the death penalty and is pretty much the evil lawyer we always enjoy watching.
It was a long ride that had me worried the whole time. I was constantly wondering who was going to die or get hurt or abducted and I was on the edge of my seat thinking whether Carl Lee was going to be ruled guilty by the jury. But despite all the setbacks, we have our happy ending. And gosh, was it happy.
Samuel L. Jackson and Matthew McConaughey had great chemistry. The same couldn’t be said for McConaughey and Ashley Judd, in her unremarkable portrayal of McConaughey’s wife. She didn’t suck or anything – she was just very meh for me. Kevin Spacey was wonderful as the no-nonsense lawyer. The Sutherlands were pretty great and Sandra Bullock brought her usual “adorkable” acting to the movie. And Joel Schumacher’s directing was amazing. Each scene had its purpose and was set very well.
A Time To Kill is a film that plays with topics that are as relevant then as they are now. It’s sad that racism is still an issue and seeing this movie makes you even more pissed off at that fact. This brought up emotions I remember feeling when I first watched To Kill A Mockingbird, the same outrage and frustration.
And until we can see each other as equals, justice is never going to be even-handed. It will remain nothing more than a reflection of our own prejudices.
It’s a happy ending, yes, but it leaves you with this lingering feeling of wanting to change the world. Because even though the movie was made twenty-one years ago, the same shit still happens. And it makes you want to change things and get up and fight for this cause or anything really. It’s a scary world out there, and this movie reminded me of that.
*Admin: In the Philippines, KKK stands for Kataas-taasan Kagalang-galang Katipunan nang mga Anak nang Bayan (Highest and Most Respected Society of the Children of the Nation), a group of revolutionaries who fought for independence from Spain during the Spanish colonization.