A LAWYER AND HIS ASSISTANT FIGHTING TO SAVE A FATHER ON TRIAL FOR MURDER. A TIME TO QUESTION WHAT THEY BELIEVE. A TIME TO DOUBT WHAT THEY TRUST. AND NO TIME FOR MISTAKES.
Young Mississippi attorney Jake Brigance (Matthew McConaughey) takes a case where a black man (Samuel L. Jackson) stands accused of having murdered two white supremacists who raped his ten-year-old daughter. One of the most successful adaptations of a John Grisham novel. The way it addresses racism in the South may be simplistic and crowd-pleasing, complete with a resurrected Klan, but attempts are made to complicate things and the febrile atmosphere adds to the tension. It’s a long movie, but doesn’t really feel that way. Some of the courtroom scenes pack a punch, especially near the end where McConaughey is electrifying; this was his breakthrough performance.
1996-U.S. 149 min. Color. Widescreen. Produced by John Grisham, Hunt Lowry, Arnon Milchan. Directed by Joel Schumacher. Screenplay: Akiva Goldsman. Novel: John Grisham. Cast: Sandra Bullock (Ellen Roark), Samuel L. Jackson (Carl Lee Hailey), Matthew McConaughey (Jake Tyler Brigance), Kevin Spacey, Brenda Fricker, Oliver Platt… Ashley Judd, Donald Sutherland, Kiefer Sutherland, Patrick McGoohan, Kurtwood Smith, Chris Cooper, Charles S. Dutton, Octavia Spencer.
Trivia: Spencer’s film debut. Kevin Costner and Val Kilmer were allegedly considered for the part of Brigance.
Last word: “Everyone knew when they saw ‘Dazed and Confused’ that [McConaughey] leapt off the screen. The Grisham books were so hot at that moment, but John didn’t want to make a movie of his first book. I just stalked him and John loved ‘The Client’, which helped. He said I could do ‘A Time to Kill’, but he had approval over the lead character. A lot of actors wanted to do it, and John didn’t want them. When I brought in Matthew, I thought of him to play the redneck bad guy at first [later played by Kiefer Sutherland]. I was talking to him and realized this guy would be great in the lead. He asked me if Brad Pitt was doing the film and I said he’s not. Anyway, I didn’t want to ruin his career. With some friends, we went way downtown in L.A. and did this little audition, because if John didn’t like it, no one would know. I sent it down to John. And the next day he called me and said, ‘Who is this guy? I love him.’ We got to call Matthew and tell him he got the lead.” (Schumacher, Variety)