A Time to Kill Summary and Analysis | Reaction Paper | SpeedyPaper

Published: 2019-09-09
A Time to Kill Summary and Analysis | Reaction Paper | SpeedyPaper
Type of paper:  Essay
Categories:  Movie
Pages: 6
Wordcount: 1466 words
13 min read

Reaction Paper: "A Time to Kill" - Movie Analysis

A Time to Kill is an American legal drama film based on John Grisham's 1989 novel. This film is one of the most controversial and hotly debated in the American and world community. The main reason lies in the storyline and the film's main concept, concentrating on the theme of racial inequality and bias against African Americans in the United States. It is worth noting that the film was a commercial success, making $152 million at the worldwide box office. So what was the main emotional trigger that influenced the opinion of moviegoers? The main plot and racial nuances made the film so resonant.

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According to the plot, white racists from Canton, Mississippi, kidnap a ten-year-old African-American girl and rape her. After a sexual violation, they try to hang the girl on a tree but are prevented by the local sheriff. Now Billy Ray Cobb and James Willard must face trial. According to state law, they can be jailed for ten years. The fact is that local legislation does not provide for the death penalty for rape. The girl's father, Carl Lee Hailey, decides to take justice into his own hands and kills criminals in the courtroom using an M16 rifle. One of the police officers was unintentionally shot in the leg during the shooting.

Now Carl Lee Hailey must stand trial and answer for the murder of rape suspects. Unfortunately, he faces the death penalty for double murder in the courtroom and wounding a police officer. Jake Brigance, a local lawyer, decides to help Carl Lee Hailey, even though the trial implies a verdict from the jury (which consists of white biased people). The film's plot focuses on how the community negatively perceives the act of a black man, despite understandable motives.

In a lengthy legal battle, Carl Lee Hailey and Jake Brigance must face prejudice, outright aggression, and death threats from members of the Ku Klux Klan. In a lengthy legal debate and an emotional monologue delivered by Brigance, a jury acquitted Carl Lee Hailey. As a result, the man was able to avoid the death penalty and returned to his family. Many city residents took this news positively, although some people felt that the judge had made a mistake.

The Movie Analysis

The film's main purpose is to show American society's bias and double standards in the early 90s. Even though slavery was abolished in 1865, many white Americans are still prejudiced against African Americans. Moreover, racial crimes still happen in America and cannot be ignored. At the same time, Akiva Goldsman created a script that exaggerated the racial issue.

The murder of rapists in the courtroom references the Lynch law and the desire of the American nation to administer justice by all means possible. On the one hand, the film shows the failure of the legal system and the real differences between the states when it comes to punishing rape. On the other hand, A Time to Kill is a movie that shows the victim's father crossing the line and becoming a killer.

The main emotional trigger is racism and prejudice against African Americans. According to the story, the jury consisted of white men and women who believed that Carl Lee Hailey was evil and should be punished. At the same time, this man just wanted a fair trial and the most severe punishment for criminals. That is why the film's plot is so heavily focused on crime and punishment.

Ku Klux Klan and Judicial Bias

Even though the KKK supremacist group was disbanded a long time ago, the writers decided to use this as a strong emotional trigger. Throughout the story, members of the clan repeatedly threaten Hailey's family and demand that Jake Brigance stop supporting African Americans. Moreover, the ideas of the KKK clan are shown as an attempt to stop a fair trial. In addition, the script describes the bias of judges and an all-white jury. Thus, the writers wanted to emphasize the imperfection of the judicial system.

So the Ku Klux Klan is an emotional trigger that shows how much the American value system needs to change. According to the plot, Jake Brigance manages to change the jury's attitude towards Hailey only after a terrible story. He asks everyone in the hall to close their eyes and tells the story of the raped girl. After visualizing all the atrocities committed by the two racists, the jury decides to drop all charges against Hailey. This part of the script is important for understanding the film's overall concept. People can make the right decisions only after realizing the horror they have subconsciously chosen to ignore.

Jake Brigance and His Performance

Imagine a white city where most inhabitants are guided by stereotypes and have not forgotten about racial segregation and Jim Crow laws. Despite democratic standards, justice is more biased towards African Americans. Moreover, the film shows that some people can consciously support the ideas of racism and ignore the obvious facts. The main emotional trigger is Jake Brigance's speech, which he prepared to change public opinion.

The jury decided to acquit the father of the raped girl only after Brigance told his story. The fact is that he described in detail the crime and the emotions that the victim felt. In addition, the jury was able to fully understand the motivation of the girl's father only after detailed analogies. Initially, the color of their skin prevented them from being objective. It was the rhetorical talent of the lawyer that made it possible to change the verdict of the court completely. Unfortunately, this is a nuance of the judicial system devoid of emotion and compassion.

At the same time, the film's plot emphasizes how important leaders are to the community. Only thanks to the talent and eloquence of Brigance, the jury abstracted from skin color and social boundaries. Arguments and the right emotional trick allowed the lawyer to win the case. Given the racial and social nuances, this fact shows how difficult it is to achieve a fair court decision.

Racism and Its Consequences

For many people, this film has become a landmark precisely because of the analysis of the stages of racism. According to the story, some of the city's residents unknowingly support racism and are biased towards Carl Lee Hailey just because he is African American. Some police officers and KKK members are openly hostile and trying to harm anyone who supports Hailey and his pursuit of justice. Only a small part of the city's inhabitants and representatives of Themis strive to be impartial. This fact shows the level of racial problems in modern society.

It is worth noting that John Grisham and Akiva Goldsman adapted the novel focusing on racial issues to show people how cruel reality is. The scene with the jury and the condemnation of the murder is logical. No one should kill people or commit violence. But the problem is that the laws of some states are not severe enough regarding rapists. That is why A Time to Kill shows that people take up arms only for justice to be done.

Fortunately, the plot is not an emotional trigger that motivates people to take up arms and punish criminals. So the court's final decision is an occasion to reflect on how unbiased and perfect all legal processes should be. Racism is a springboard for the formation of history and shows that any crime should not go unpunished. At the same time, the script shows that Carl Lee Hailey was not a psychopath who hated white people. He only wanted justice and would have done the same if African Americans had hurt his daughter. That is why the film aims to say no to racial stereotypes.


A Time to Kill is an important film for world cinema and American communities. Racism is a real problem, even though a long time has passed since the abolition of slavery. The film's main message is important in the context of social and racial inequality. In addition, it shows that lynching is not the right solution, although it is necessary. So the film does not try to impose any point of view but only shows what can happen when a society does not have real legal tools to punish criminals.

Another important aspect is the impact of the film on the audience. A Time to Kill is not a triumph of one race over another but a mix of social values and the pursuit of justice. The main characters symbolize those who want justice to be more than a beautiful word. That is why all scenario triggers are fully justified. This film shows that the world must change so that all people can enjoy life and not do justice on their own.

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A Time to Kill Summary and Analysis | Reaction Paper | SpeedyPaper. (2019, Sep 09). Retrieved from https://speedypaper.com/essays/reaction-paper-a-time-to-kill

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