This documentary portrait of the late Earl Warren might never have been nominated for an Oscar were it not for the lively career of the Chief Justice, who presided over the Supreme Court during some of its most turbulent years, from 1953 to 1969. The Red Scare, racial unrest, the separation of Church and State, and the rights of the accused were only some of the issues he had to wrestle with, and by simply acknowledging compassion and fair play he was able to make decisions more courageous than any made since the Constitution was first written, nearly two centuries earlier.
Critics would argue that Warren was more interested in creating laws than in simply interpreting them, and to its credit the film gives equal time to both ends of the argument, offering opinions by friend and political foe alike, from Arthur Miller to Gerald Ford to (an envious and bitter) Judge Robert Bork. The facts are rarely presented in anything more than the driest possible manner, but the film is certainly educational, and anyone not familiar with Warren's life and legacy will find it a timely reminder of how fragile our social and civil freedoms can be.
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