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To Kill a Mockingbird is the movie based on the Harper Lee novel of the same
name about Scout, Jem and their father, Atticus Finch who is an attorney in
a small southern town. It is both a coming of age story about the children
as well as a hard-hitting drama, as Atticus defends a black man who is on
trial for the rape of a white woman.
This review is not an easy one to write, despite the fact that I have seen this film at least 10 times. The reason it does not come easily is that this is one of the most personally important films I have ever seen and is in my personal `Top Five of All Time'. I'm certain there is nothing that can be said about the film that has not already been repeated a multitude of times, so I guess the best thing to do is explain why the film is so important to me.
I first saw this film several years ago and was so profoundly affected by it that I immediately watched it again. Of course, the defense of a man wrongly accused of a crime is a common story line, but To Kill a Mockingbird stands out as an exceptional example for several reasons. Among them, the date that the film was released: 1962, on the cusp of the civil rights movement in America, and the fact that it takes place in the south in the 1930's. It is also far from the first film to explore the experiences of children and their own personal growth, but To Kill a Mockingbird stands out because of its sheer honesty and natural performances by the child actors portraying these rich characters.
But most of all, this film is special because of Gregory Peck's portrayal of Atticus Finch, a true hero. At the risk of sounding histrionic, my heart aches when I watch him on screen because he is such an incredible man, and is so inherently good. No matter how many times I have seen this film, I smile when I see his interaction with his children, and I well with tears when I see his incredible strength of character. (No easy feat to break through the armor of this cynical film geek who, if given the chance would remake at least a few dozen films with tragic endings.) I was sitting in my car listening to National Public Radio recently the day Gregory Peck died, and I'm not ashamed to admit that I sat and cried hearing the retrospective they offered mainly because the man who portrayed my own personal cinematic hero was gone, but also because Peck lived his life with the same conviction as his best known role; a fact that makes Atticus Finch all the more tangible. The American Film Institute recently named Atticus Finch the number one hero of all time, a choice I consider both brave and insightful in an age where our heroes generally either wield weapons or have super human physical strength. Atticus Finch fights evil as well, but with his strong moral fiber and his mind.
To Kill a Mockingbird is generally required reading during the course of one's education. If you have not read it, do so. If you have not seen the film, do so; and share it with others. It is an exceptional film that stands the test of time and will remain an important addition to film history for as long as the genre exists.
TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD is presented like a play in three acts. It is
also from the children's perspective. Through the kids, we find that
racism is a learned attitude or feeling. We also see a delightful
coming of age drama as the young kids realize that there is no
Boogeyman down the street and their father is capable of doing a lot
more than they think. The great Gregory Peck plays Atticus Finch, a
pillar of nobility, social conscience, and, rare for 1930's Americana,
a single parent. Peck is such a strong presence, you believe everything
about him. It is something you can compare to America's trust in TV
anchorman Walter Cronkite. We always took his word for it.
Act one puts Atticus in the background and allows the kids to flourish. Director Robert Mulligan was able to get such realistic performances from non-professional kids. They are amusing and fun to watch. The big mystery lies in the house down the street in this small Georgia town. Who is the monstrous, "6 and a half feet big" legend living in the end house? Some light suspense ensues, while the buildup to a stirring act two is happening. Atticus must defend an African-American man for the alleged rape of a white woman.
After threats galore, an unshaken Peck takes to the courtroom jungle in, without a doubt, one of the top 5 court scenes in motion picture history. Brock Peters lends the film its best moments as the accused "negro" on trial. This man has a face chiseled with suffering and deep, deep sorrow. We know Atticus is a good man, a decent human being with a soul. He sees this in his client as well, and in a closing argument that must have roused the civil rights movement, implores the jury to vote justice. An all-male, all-white jury in the 1930's were tough listeners. Peters' breakdown on the stand is one of the most realistic, emotionally saddening moments you'll ever see, especially in Hollywood films of the 1960's. The scene when Peck leaves the courtroom is now legendary as well.
Act three produces a tragic death, an unlikely hero, and the bringing together of a family. The filmmakers have such a passion for the material, they seem to handle it with gentleness. Racism is a hard-boiled subject and it is depicted and dealt with through grace and patience. TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD poses the injustice of race relations in the 1930's as a front for the events happening in the 1960's. The film came out during turbulent times and was also an adaption of a literary classic. I am one to judge a film solely by film only. The book is a separate art form and should not be compared to the film, an art form itself. It is important, it is enlightening, and it has not aged. Watch it.
RATING: 9 of 10
Enough good things can't be said about this movie. It is undoubtedly one
the best and most moving films ever made. No other racial injustice or
discriminatory based movie can even compare with "To Kill a Mockingbird".
This movie not only makes you sympathize with those who were being
discriminated against, but also those who fought for those people. One of
the most moving parts of the movie is when Atticus Finch is leaving the
court room and Reverend Sykes tells Scout to "stand up your father is
Gregory Peck has always been one of my favorite actors. This is definitely one of my favorite roles that he has ever played, and he does an excellent job at it. Mary Badham and Philip Alford are excellent as Jem and Scout. Mary Badham became the youngest girl to receive an Academy Award nomination for best supporting actress for her role as Scout. Although it had a short time on screen, Robert Duvall's portrayal of "Boo" Radley was one of his very first roles on screen and what better movie than "To Kill a Mockingbird" to kick off your acting career.
A great movie of all times.
Hoo boy, am I a sucker for courtroom dramas. The wrangling of legal points
and the investigation into the truth just gets my cinematic blood pumping (I
s'pose it's in response to my own dashed hopes of becoming an
"To Kill a Mockingbird" rises to the top of the pile easily.
Yes, the courtroom proceedings are nail-bitingly engaging. But played out against the tapestry of bigotry and hate make the legal goings-on even more compelling.
The writing here is so beautiful, so lyric, so poetic. The Harper Lee-based screenplay captures wonderfully a time and a place that are absolutely real--where big brothers could solve the universe's problems in an instant and all the treasures of the world could be contained in a cigar box.
"To Kill a Mockingbird" also contains three of the most impressive child performances I have ever witnessed--there's not a false or affected moment in any one of them. Until seeing "Ponette," a movie I would highly recommend, the kids in "Mockingbird" received my best child performance ever awards. "Ponette" has ratcheted them down one notch, but that doesn't diminish the achievement here. The scene in which Scout dispels the mob simply by identifying its individual members is one of the most powerful moments in filmdom.
Peck more than deserved his best actor nod. His quiet dignity is a definite asset. Brock Peters, too, is terrific in what could have been a cliched role.
If you are a moviegoer who has a bias against black and white movies and who has therefore never seen "Mockingbird," I pity you. You've passed on one of Hollywood's most unforgettable experiences.
The first time I saw To Kill A Mockingbird was at a drive-in theater. I was
probably about ten or eleven at the time. Even at a young age I was
captivated by this seemingly simple story told through the eyes of children
that I could easily relate to. Perhaps also it was the fact that the part
of the story that dealt with Boo Radley, held a kind of mystery and an
eeriness for me, much in the way a ghost story would. I'm not about to make
the pretense that I understood the social significance of To Kill A
Mockingbird at the age of ten, or even the greatness of the film. That
would come later in life, after having viewed it in one of it's first
network television broadcasts.
One of the things that makes To Kill A Mockingbird a truly great film is the love and respect everyone involved in bringing Harper Lee's novel to the screen had for the original source material. It shows up on screen in every single frame. Each performance in this film is beyond reproach. Gregory Peck had many fine performances over his storied career, but none every approached the perfection he brought to his portrayal of Atticus Finch. As Atticus, Peck brings us the depth of understanding as to how his love for Jem and Scout enables him to treat his children with respect and honesty. He never talks down to them, but approaches them on a level in which children of their age can comprehend and learn from his own wisdom. Yet, he is still able to retain the same no nonsense approach as other parents. Atticus is also a man who believes in the integrity of justice, yet recognizes the failings of our justice system. When called upon to do his duty, he does so, despite the hatred and venom brought to bear upon him and his children by the citizens of the town in which he lives.
In casting Jem, Scout and Dill, Producer Alan J. Pakula and Director Robert Mulligan faced a daunting task. So much of the success of To Kill A Mockingbird depended on the pivotal role these characters would play in the film. For Jem he chose Philip Alford, for Scout, Mary Badham, and for Dill, John Megna. Alford and Badham were both southern natives who had never been in films before. Megna was a New York native but was also inexperienced. It is this inexperience and lack of polish that enables all three to shine on the screen. Mulligan began filming by letting them act as if making a film was like recess, allowing them to play on the set, and only moving the camera gradually as they became accustomed to their surroundings. It paid off in every way imaginable. None of the three ever appear as if they are actors acting, and bring a childlike wonder and presence to their roles that I had never seen before, and will unlikely witness again.
Brock Peters as Tom Robinson, the black man falsely accused of raping a white girl, also gives a performance which he would never again surpass. You will not find anywhere a more memorable scene in any court room than when he testifies on the witness stand. Because he dared to care about a white girl, he now faces almost certain death if convicted, and perhaps even if not convicted. It is the first time I was able to begin to understand the effects of man's prejudice and hatred of a man simply because of the color of his skin. Just as Jem and Scout came of age, and realized the significance of the injustices of racial hatred, so did I.
Equally significant, is Collin Wilcox as Mayella Ewell. She makes it easy for many to hate her, but like Atticus, we see in her a person to be more pitied than hated. She is a product of not only the times in which she lives, but even more so of her wretched upbringing. Mayella is what she is, but only because of the deep cutting prejudices of those around her. To Mayella, being caught enticing a black man into your house for relations, is the ultimate crime and the penalty for doing so is unthinkable to her.
In his screen debut as Boo Radley, Robert Duvall also brings to life the mysterious neighbor that once frightened Jem, Dill, and Scout so much. Though on the screen for a short length of time, without uttering a word, Duvall shows us a man tortured by years of cruelty, mistreatment, and the gossip and whispers of neighbors. He is a man who wants only to live in his own way, yet the bond that links him to Jem and Scout is significant. They are the childhood he had never really known. Just as Tom Robinson, he has never brought harm to anyone, yet suffers significantly just for the right to be able to exist.
The care with which To Kill A Mockingbird was brought to the screen can also be seen in the Art Direction by Henry Bumstead and Set Decoration by Oliver Emert. They indeed bring to life what a small Southern Town would have been like in the early thirties. Cinematographer Russel Harlan's black and white photography brings it all vividly to the screen, especially in the way he captures the foreboding of the Radley house, the moments when Bob Ewell approaches Jem when he is left in a car alone, and even more noteworthy near the end of the film when Jem and Scout are walking home from a school play. Elmer Bernstein's score is never boisterous, but yet is as important to setting the mood of many of the scenes played out before us.
There have been many eloquent words written in many of the comments on this board about To Kill A Mockingbird. Many of the words are far better than those that I have written. Then again, maybe a few simple paragraphs cannot truly describe the significant achievement in film making that To Kill A Mockingbird is. It will be forever remembered, long after you and I have departed from this world. It is at this point that I usually grade a film. I will skip that here, simply because there is no grade that I can give that could possibly do justice for To Kill A Mockingbird.
"To Kill A Mockingbird" is truly a much loved and critically-acclaimed film. It is a perfect portrayal of childhood innocence, racial prejudice, moral tolerance and courage. No other words can describe this film except marvellous. The film is so wonderfully done that the audience actually feels as if they were in Alabama during the 1930s. This is a must see for anyone of any age.
After hearing nothing but critical acclaim for this film, and the book it was based on, I finally got to see it. I am quite amazed at how well done this film is, and how timeless the theme is. I haven't read the book, but I'm considering it, just to see if there are any details that were left out. The story is amazing and exceptionally told. As far as I know, the film is as close to the book as it could possibly be; some call it the most accurate book-to-film conversion ever. The plot is very good, it takes a timeless problem and presents it to us, through the innocent eyes of a naive child. The pace is very good; apart from The Godfather(the first one) and one or two other exceptions, this is the only drama where there was truly not one single moment that I found dull, boring or unimportant. Nothing seemed trivial in the film. The perspective that is forced upon us is that of a young child, naive and innocent. This is a brilliant idea, as the eyes of a child is without a doubt one of the most impressionable things in the world, and the film handles this perfectly. What really makes the film, apart from the brilliant and possibly unique perspective, is the fact that the children are likable, credible and charming. You couldn't help but like them; believe me, normally I really dislike children. I find them annoying, loud and egotistical. But with this film, I couldn't, for one second, muster up any tiny amount of aggression, or even annoyance. They come off as so likable, charming, and, most importantly, *real*. Almost every kid in any Hollywood movie is either a completely ridiculous stereotype/cliché of a brat, who does nothing but destroy things around him, or the exact opposite, a little angel. Everyone knows that no child is the latter all the time, and even I will admit that there probably doesn't exist too many children who are the first, either. In this film, the children are completely real. They are naive, innocent, they disobey what their father tells them, but ultimately, they obviously love and respect their father, and they never do anything, anything at all, with the intent to hurt or harm someone or something. That is what a child is; innocent. They do what they do because they do not know better. This film provides a perfect view into their world, or, rather, their perspective of it. The acting is excellent. The child actors exceed all expectations. I was amazed at how professional and convincing they were. The other actors all give great performances as well. The cinematography is excellent; once again, it gives a perfect perspective on what your surroundings look like when you're a child. The characters are well-written, credible and well-casted. The dialog was well-written. The script was excellent. A very memorable and beautiful film, should be viewed by almost anyone. I recommend this to anyone who likes dramas, and just about anyone who for one reason or another might enjoy this. Don't be scared off by it being over forty years old, or it being black and white; it's an excellent film, and just about anyone would enjoy it. Don't miss this perfect film. 10/10
After studying the outstanding book of To Kill A Mockingbird at school, I viewed this film, and was on the whole very impressed. Scout and Jem are portrayed brilliantly, considering the ages of the children who played them, and they, as with everything else in the production, are true to the book's spirit. Gregory Peck is perfect as the unflappable Atticus Finch, and deserved his Oscar. The music is worthy of praise, especially for the climatic scene, and the raw emotion and feeling of the book is amply conveyed. All of the cast are well cast, and it's interesting to ponder how much this film, at the time, would've shocked. That the book explores racism and outsiders in a southern town, through the eyes of a child is genius and works very nicely here. The only problems are minor- much of the book's counter-balancing humour was left out, certain characters are omitted (Dolphus Raymond and Aunt Alexandra), and some of the book's early characterisation is missed. Aside from these gripes, this is a magical film and a "must-see," as a companion piece to the classic novel. 9/10
Very rarely, it happens that movies are made that are very simple in
expression but possess monumental appeals and significant life lessons
in a style only of the kind of their own that, we can't expect even.
This fact is truthfully exemplified in this movie. It's not just a
movie or even just a promising story in general, but all it portray's
is "Innocence". A girl's recollection of her childhood days which are
still at their full bloom in her mind, depicting the innocence of
juvenile as well as as adult minds, a period where mostly immature
minds become curious to the racial bigotry and sometimes mature minds
become its prey and a time when harsh realities of life like
intolerance, hatreds, prejudice and adversities of society gradually
dawn upon them.
Atticus Finch ( Gregory Peck ) is an absolutely Gentleman Lawyer whose wife has passed away and he has a son and a daughter. A Black man Tom Robinson is wrongly alleged of raping a poor white woman. In fact, he a victim of white woman's effort to hide her guilt by targeting his innocence and utilizing favors of racial attitude of unsocial society towards Negros. Finch decides to defend him on his principles realizing that the narrow minded society will turn against him and so it happened and townspeople started making his life agonizing. The whole story is masterfully out shined by the ingenuousness, purity and innocence of his children with with a unique inspirational interaction with their father.
Boo Readly who lives in the town is mentally retarded and is sidelined by the society. He is a mark of fear and curiosity for children because he is different from others. But he is the one who marks the ultimate climax of this emotionally crafted masterpiece.
It's a must see movie for all ages in all times because it gives many priceless emotional and touching lessons for those who are sincere and perceptive.
A Remarkably Simple and Simply Remarkanble Masterpiece!!!
'To Kill a Mockingbird' is one of the best books ever written but this film does it justice. The performances throughout are stunning, especially that of Gregory Peck (Harper Lee was so impressed she gave him her late father's pocket watch, a prop he uses in the film, to keep). This film will make anyone think hard about how they treat others and it is really heartwarming without being soppy. It isn't necessary to have read the book before seeing this film but it might be advisable. This is one of the classic films of its generation and very few films of nowadays come close to matching it either. A real must-see.
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