A Faithful Recreation Of One Of Literary’s Finest
Faithfully adapted from the book of the same name, To Kill A Mockingbird is a well written, masterfully crafted film that takes a long, hard look at the justice system and in particular, racism gripping Alabama in America during the early 1930s. Buoyed by an impressive performance by Gregory Peck as the middle-aged lawyer fighting for justice, To Kill A Mockingbird is a timeless movie that, while not quite as gripping as the book its based on, does a great job adapting the book into an easily accessible, thought provocative film.
Unlike the book which focuses predominantly on 6 year old Scout and her perception of the world as seen through her narrative voice, the film takes a much more passive viewpoint, focusing on both Scout (Mary Badham) and her brother Jem (Phillip Alford) as well as her father Atticus Finch. Scout and Jem’s storyline predominantly revolves around their reclusive neighbour “Boo” Radley (Robert Duvall) whom they fantasise about and imagine what he looks like which plays right into the hands of Atticus Finch’s story. This plot line is far more hard hitting, with the bulk of it revolving around Atticus’ struggle to defend an innocent black man, Tom Robinson (Brock Peters), from a false rape accusation.
Most of the story plays out in a straight forward, formulaic fashion with the children, especially Scout, continuously puzzled by the events that transpire in their father’s case while Atticus grapples with the inequality and unjustified hatred in society. It’s here that To Kill A Mockingbird bursts into life with Tom Robinson’s court case sure to leave you incredulous and angry throughout. Gregory Peck’s cool, calm demeanour and the way it slowly breaks down into frustrated exasperation late on is a thing of beauty and played out to perfection.
A wonderfully sombre score accompanies the film too and really helps set the mood and tone for large stretches of the run time. With the film originally released in the 60s, some of the set design and static camera work inevitably feels a little dated but to be honest these points are negligible considering how important some of the core themes and ideas are here. Racism, inequality and flaws in the justice system all rear their ugly head throughout making this a flick that easily transcends time, highlighting the unbridled racism evident in 1930s America.
It was always going to be a difficult job adapting one of the best books ever written and although the film does pales in comparison to the book, To Kill A Mockingbird is still an important film in the history of cinema, highlighting numerous flaws in the justice system as well as societal attitudes of the time. Gregory Peck is excellent as Atticus Finch too and his performance helps drive the narrative forward toward the bittersweet, reflective ending. Whether another film will ever manage to achieve what Mockingbird does here is anyone’s guess but it’s fair to say this will forever go down as one of the most culturally important films in the history of cinema.