Plot: A black man is accused of raping a white woman and while his trial is still ahead, most of the locals seem to have him convicted already. But lawyer Atticus Finch (Gregory Peck) is determined to see that Tom (Brock Peters) gets the best possible defense, even as some of the other locals harass him for his involvement. Finch believes in fairness and justice, so he works hard to defend his client and these ideals are not lost on his two young children. While Atticus works on this important case, his kids get into trouble and try to sneak a peek at one of their neighbors, named Boo. They’ve heard stories about Boo, but never been able to even catch a glimpse, just daring each other to go past the gate in his yard. Tensions over the rape case continue to mount, to the point that Atticus has to stand outside the jailhouse to prevent lynch mobs from taking the law into their own hands. As his children look on, Atticus presents a stellar defense on Tom’s behalf, but will it be enough to balance out the prejudice and social pressures that seem to will Tom to be found guilty?
Entertainment Value: This one of cinema’s undeniable masterworks, a timeless movie that remains ever relevant and an example of how good films can be when all the tumblers fall into place. The movie won three Academy Awards, countless other honors, and is always involved in discussions about the best cinema has to offer, a rare feat that few films can claim. Atticus Finch is one of the movies’ all time heroes, with Gregory Peck in one of his finest performances, which is quite a compliment given this resume of work. Peck is excellent here, conveying a kind, honest man with a genuine presence, so it never feels hollow or forced. I also love the performances from the child actors, who bring such a sense of innocence and wonder to the roles, as well as the weariness of realizing the world isn’t such an ideal place. This is just a superb cast from top to bottom, one of the best you’ll find. The narrative is based on Harper Lee’s famous novel and tells the story with great skill, never glossing over controversial elements and bringing depth to the characters. Not to be overlooked are the visuals involved, which capture the small town, hardscrabble atmosphere quite well. The writing and performances tend to get most of the attention, but the production design elements are remarkable here as well, to be sure. In short, this is a classic that more deserves its glowing reputation, a movie no film fan should be without.
No nakedness. No blood. This is a straight forward drama, so it never calls for sleaze or much violence. There are some intense scenes that are right on the brink, such as when Atticus is confronted by the husband of the victim, but they never escalate into all out violence. The finale has some barely seen, implied violence, but it is more told than shown. This movie is grounded and serious, but still has a wealth of memorable and quotable lines. Most of the wilder moments involve the Finch kids, who banter back and forth almost constantly with each other and pretty much anyone else who will listen. The dialogue is so natural and organic from the children, it just adds so much depth and realism to the movie. The victim’s husband is a slimy, hateful hayseed and he has some prime dysfunction in his interactions. And finally, Atticus has some sly humor at times as well, which is a lot of fun. As for craziness, the antics of the kids earn a point, but otherwise this one remains grounded and serious.
Overall Insanity: 1/10