A Time to Kill (1996) Review

Canton Missisippi, Jake Tyler Brigance an ambitious young lawyer is about to put everything on the line when he defends a black man named Carl Lee Hailey who shot and killed two white men who raped his ten year old daughter causing chaos within the town and revenge from the Ku Klux Klan.


A Time To Kill will push your morals to the limit as you try and decide what the fate of Carl Lee Hailey should be, the man who took the law into his own hands by killing the two redneck scumbags who tortured, raped and attempted to kill his ten year old daughter. He could not deal with them being set free.

In a town that was still very split with racial prejudice these two events were always going to cause more of an issue between black and white people. The black people being truly horrified by what happened to the young girl and knowing that the two white men probably would have got away with it. After Carl Lee Hailey kills them this causes Freddie Lee Cobb to start up the Ku Klux Klan with some former members who already lived in the town. Making anyone involved in the case fear for themselves and family members.

Jake is targeted as well as his assistant Ellen Roark and Ethel Twitty who works for him, his wife Carla and their daughter even have to leave for safety. He pushes everything and everyone to the limits not really taking time to think about how dangerous that is. I felt as though the conversation with Ethel before she left was true and quite frankly heartbreaking, he was very reckless and didn’t fully appreciate the danger it was all stirring up.

As a viewer I personally wanted nothing more than Carl to be let off with the murders of the two horrid men, as what they did was truly unforgivable for any woman to suffer but even worse for a ten year old girl. His own justice felt right, although I know that is not how the justice system works at all. The closing statement from Jake is heartbreaking and the final line “what if she was white” after describing everything that happened to the young girl.

I do love a courtroom drama and this has so much tension surrounding it. This is a film that I was first introduced to during GCSE English when we were studying To Kill A Mockingbird in order to watch the racial prejudice themes and how it transferred. Although now thinking about that it makes me wonder how many lessons it actually took to watch the film!

Matthew McConaughey is truly outstanding in this film in what was one of his first leading roles, he certainly shows what was to come with his acting ability. Really impresses from start to finish and that was obviously very important given he is the real driving force within the film. Samuel L. Jackson is brilliant as the father wanting to ensure what happened to his daughter will not go unnoticed and he has some truly fantastic scenes and moments. Sandra Bullock offers some very good support as well, with Kevin Spacey, Brenda Fricker, Charles S. Dutton, Oliver Platt, Donald Sutherland, Kiefer Sutherland and Ashley Judd making up the cast. I mean that is some cast and therefore no real surprise that the standard of this film is very well acted.

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