VISUAL TREATS THAT OFTEN TICKLES OUR LEGAL SENSES

By | February 23, 2017
Akshay Kumar Jolly LLB 2

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Jolly LLB 2 raised a furor among the people with its dark comedy, a satire upon the Indian legal system. The movie accentuates the lamentable shape of the judiciary, where there is no escape from the fury of gathering a storm of the overloaded judiciary, prolonged courtroom battle and experienced lawyers being sightless and injudicious by the illegal practices of power and money. The movie depicts the bravery of Jolly, who emerges as a responsible lawyer suddenly awakened by his conscience and achieves triumph in ensuring justice.

Well, there has always been a difference in portraying the legal system on the cinematographic world, an effort to whet the appetite of viewers; depiction does make a mark between telling an interesting story and representing the law accurately. The world of cinema leads us to the journey of a virtual world where we substitute ourselves in living that life and it contributes us with wonderful tales and visual treats that captivate us and reminds us of the sky-high dreams that caused us to enroll in law.  A list of movies that has managed to fascinate the lawyers:

  • Young Mr. Lincoln(1939)

Henry Fonda makes an engaging, beardless and believable Abraham Lincoln in John Ford’s fictionalized account of Lincoln’s early adult years from New Salem to Springfield, and—this being Hollywood—from the lovely and doomed Ann Rutledge to the ambitious and manipulative Mary Todd. The key plot point revolves around a killing that takes place during a July 4 brawl. As a newly minted lawyer, the young Lincoln manages to quell a lynch mob by telling them he needs the two brothers accused in the murder to be his first real client.

  • 12 Angry Men (1957)

Henry Fonda produced and starred in this faithful adaptation of Reginald Rose’s critically acclaimed stage play chron­icling the hostile deliberations of a jury in a death pen­alty case. This classic film is the story of a jury comprised of 12 men who must deliberate the guilt or acquittal of an 18-year-old man accused of murder. Henry Fonda, one of the jurors, begs his colleagues to look closely at the facts of the trial. What results is a study in humanity as each jurors faces his own prejudices and emotions. For many lawyers, this film is the ultimate depiction of the trial by jury process and a lesson on the impact of building consensus.

  • Witness for the Prosecution(1957)

The legendary Billy Wilder directs from a script by the legendary mystery writer Agatha Christie. But it’s the legendary Charles Laughton who fills the screen as the pompous barrister who is supposed to be retired after recovering from an illness but can’t resist taking a puzzling murder case. Real-life wife Elsa Lanchester is his sharp-tongued nurse, and the two sparkle as they verbally spar. Tyrone Power is the playboy defendant; Marlene Dietrich is his wife and, surprisingly, the witness in question. It’s not the only surprise, as befits a Dame Agatha story. Watch for yourself.

  • Anatomy of a Murder (1959)

Otto Preminger directs this realistic study of an Army lieutenant accused of murdering a bartender who allegedly raped his coquettish wife. The plot skips nimbly through a thicket of ethical dilemmas involved in representing a murder defendant. It was inspired by an actual case and adapted from a novel written by a Michigan Supreme Court judge. The original score is by Duke Ellington, who makes a cameo.

  • Inherit the Wind (1960)

The film, adapted from a 1955 play by Jerome Lawrence and Robert E. Lee, is a fictionalized account, and the characters’ names are changed, however slightly (Tracy’s Darrow is Henry Drummond, and March’s Bryan is Matthew Harrison Brady). However, much of the courtroom testimony was taken straight from the trial transcript.

  • To Kill A Mockingbird (1962)

Widely considered one of the greatest movies of all time, “To Kill a Mockingbird” is based on the Pulitzer Prize-winning book by Harper Lee. This classic film, which won three Academy Awards, encompasses societal topics including racial prejudice, violence and moral tolerance and carrying on in the face of adversity. Penned for the screen by Horton Foote, the movie was an instant classic, as lawyer Finch rises above the naked racism of Depression-era Alabama to defend a crippled black man (Brock Peters) falsely accused of rape by a lonely, young white woman.

  • Judgment at Nuremberg (1961)

Stanley Kramer directed this searing portrayal of the Nazi war crimes trials set in 1948. The Abby Mann script focuses, in particular, on charges brought against four German judges who are accused of allowing their courts to become accomplices to Nazi atrocities. An American judge, Dan Haywood (Spencer Tracy), finds himself trying to understand how these once-esteemed colleagues allowed themselves to be used. He gets little or no help from average Germans, who are busy distancing themselves from Germany’s Nazi past. When one of the judges, Ernst Janning (Burt Lancaster), breaks from the others and confesses, it becomes clear that—whatever their original intentions—these judges have chosen political obligations over their personal senses of right and wrong.

  • The Paper Chase(1973)

James T. Hart (Timothy Bottoms) is a first-year law student desperately seeking the approval of Harvard’s stern­est professor, Charles W. Kingsfield Jr. (John Houseman). He begins to get the respect that he’s earned, only to discover that the young woman he’s involved with (Lindsay Wagner) is the professor’s daughter. The real drama, however, is the demanding milieu of Harvard Law School, where reputations can be made and broken in a single, grueling class.

  • Kramer vs. Kramer (1979)

Dustin Hoffman and Meryl Streep both won Oscars as Ted and Joanna Kramer, an estranged couple fighting over custody of their son. Ted deals with real fatherhood for the first time as a single dad when Joanna leaves him. But he must also face his own failures when Joanna resurfaces demanding to gain custody of their son. An all-too-painful reminder of the human toll that is pos­sible when domestic relations litigation takes a nasty turn.

  • The Verdict (1982)

Paul Newman is a washed-up, alco­holic lawyer who is handed a medical-malpractice case and sees it as one last chance to get his career right. James Mason is diabolical as his courtroom opponent who cavorts with the judge, played by Milo O’Shea. Charlotte Rampling is the love interest—whose interests may not be those of Newman’s character. Tight and tense direction by Sidney Lumet (12 Angry Men, Dog Day Afternoon).

  • A Few Good Men (1992)

Two low-ranking Marines from the Guantanamo Bay naval base are being court-martialed for the death of anoth­er, allegedly part of an unofficial pun­ishment known as a “code red.” The Marines say they were following orders. Their unapologetic commander, Col. Nathan Jessup (an absolutely electric Jack Nicholson) says they acted on their own. The truth, if you can handle it, turns out to be something more complicated than a sense of duty.

  • My Cousin Vinny (1992)

Vincent “Vinny” Gambini (Joe Pesci) is a brash Brooklyn lawyer who only recently managed to pass the bar exam on his sixth try. He’s representing his cousin and a friend—two California-bound college students who are arrested for capital murder after a short stop at a convenience store in rural Alabama. Still, the rule of law prevails in the courtroom of Judge Chamberlain Haller (Fred Gwynne).The movie packs in cinema’s briefest opening argument (“Everything that guy just said is bullshit.”), its best-ever introduction to the rules of criminal procedure, and a case that hinges on properly introduced expert tes­timony regarding tire marks left by a 1964 Skylark and the optimal boiling time of grits.

  • Philadelphia (1993)

Tom Hanks won an Oscar as an Ivy-educated gay attorney who claims his big-time law firm fired him after discovering he contracted AIDS. The somewhat dated and self-righteous script is saved by Denzel Washington’s vibrant and nuanced performance as the solo personal injury lawyer who takes the case when everyone else turns Hanks’ character down, and who comes to terms with his own homophobia. That the film is “inspired in part” by the life and litigation of Geoffrey Bowers, an attorney who died of aids, is the result of a real-life lawsuit.

  • Amistad(1997)

Steven Spielberg directed this historic drama of the famous 1839 slave ship uprising. An all-star cast includes Matthew McConaughey, Morgan Freeman and Anthony Hopkins as former President John Quincy Adams, who argues the case to the U.S. Supreme Court. Justice Harry Blackmun reads the court’s opinion in a cameo role as Justice Joseph Story. The film was criticized for taking liberties with the facts, but it succeeds as a portrayal of antebellum America coming to grips with slavery—and how the law was employed both for and against.

  • Erin Brockovich(2000)

Julia Roberts does an Academy Award-winning turn as the real-life paralegal and sassy single mom whose dogged investigation into a suspicious real estate case turns up a pattern of illegal dumping of highly toxic hexa­valent chromium and one of the heftiest class action suits in U.S. history. Albert Finney portrays her boss, Ed Masry.

  • Chicago(2002)

Lawyers tap-dance all the time, but Richard Gere does so pretty darn well as sleazeball attorney Billy Flynn in the film adaptation of the highly successful Bob Fosse musical. Catherine Zeta-Jones and Renee Zellweger play celebrity murderers who cynically parlay their Jazz Age notoriety into a vaudeville act. Maurine Dallas Watkins’ original play, Chicago, or Play Ball, produced as a silent film by Cecil B. DeMille in 1927 (and later, the 1942 Ginger Rogers vehicle Roxie Hart), is based on two actual murder trials she covered as a reporter for the Chicago Tribune.

WRITER – Shringar Bhattarai, Student

References :

  1. http://www.insidecounsel.com/2014/10/30/the-10-best-legal-movies-of-all-time?page=9
  2. http://www.abajournal.com/magazine/article/the_25_greatest_legal_movies/
  3. http://www.telegraph.co.uk/films/2016/05/20/the-best-courtroom-and-law-films
Author: Mayank Shekhar

Mayank is a student at Faculty of Law, Delhi University. Under his leadership, Legal Bites has been researching and developing resources through blogging, educational resources, competitions, and seminars.