Starring: Gregory Peck, John Megna, Frank Overton
Director: Robert Mulligan
Running Time: 129 mins
To Kill A Mockingbird is an American film, based on the classic novel, about a lawyer who takes on the task of defending a black man whilst also trying to protect his children from the racism and prejudice that surrounds them in 1930s Alabama.
This is one of those rare films that is just an absolute masterclass in good storytelling. With a fantastically captivating screenplay, strong performances and effective pacing, this film is incredibly engrossing, pulling you deep into a story that becomes so unpredictable as it unfolds.
Let’s start with the man at the centre of this film, Atticus Finch, a lawyer whose ambition is to give a black man a fair trial in the face of all of the prejudice of 1930s America. With an amazingly down-to-earth and well-held performance by Gregory Peck, this man is one of the most intriguing and likeable characters of all time, someone who abhors violence, prejudice and coercion, and isn’t necessarily so vocal about his beliefs, but always fights as hard as he can to protect them, and it’s that personality that makes him someone that is impossible not to support.
The story of this film is also absolutely ingenious. Whilst the first act, which lasts an hour or so, may have been a little on the slow side, it’s still an intriguing establishment of the characters and society that this story revolves around, and it’s invaluable when it comes to the incredible second act.
After an hour or so, everything is set up very well, and the second act commences on a real high note, where we move into the courtroom for the trial of this man accused of rape. Despite being very calmly paced, this is an absolutely captivating and thrilling period where although everything seems quite clear-cut, it’s never so simple, and it develops into a hugely unpredictable and engrossing forty minutes that absolutely fly by.
And even after the end of the trial, there’s still a whole lot more to come in the last half an hour or so, which is just completely unpredictable, where the stakes appear to be ramped up, the pacing increases a little, and everything seems to get quite a bit darker, making for thirty minutes of real excitement that was totally unexpected at the beginning of this film.
Overall, this gets an 8.3, because of its excellent characterisation, helped by strong performances all round, especially by Gregory Peck, as well as its story that not only talks about racism in the 1930s but also makes for some brilliant excitement and intrigue all the way through.