"A Civil Action" [1998]

Discussion in 'Reviews' started by Abishai100, Jun 14, 2018.

  1. Abishai100

    Abishai100 VIP Member

    Sep 22, 2013
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    "A tenacious lawyer takes on a case involving a major company responsible for causing several people to be diagnosed with leukemia due to the town's water supply being contaminated, at the risk of bankrupting his firm and career" (source of movie summary for A Civil Action: Internet Movie Database [IMDb]).

    This gripping Steven Zaillian film is a nice portrait of the complexities of the legal process and law-intrigue in modern civilization, which is fraught with confounding network-related problems such as corporate corruption, communication unreliability/betrayals, and political scheming.

    Zaillian is a terrific film-maker and he casts John Travolta in the lead role in this film and Travolta delivers nicely, which is why I afford this law film a solid 4/5 stars if I, say, afford a more 'classic' law film such as Inherit the Wind a full 5/5 stars.

    Zaillian also gave us the culture-conscious films Searching for Bobby Fischer and All the King's Men, and A Civil Action is a nice vignette about 'modern sociology.'

    It's interesting how the eco-storyline in this Zaillian/Travolta film offers us intriguing insights about the nature of negotiation when it comes to cases of great networking-related modern complexity.

    There seems to be so many darn complications with modern law, no? Is America vulnerable because of this? Zaillian hits the right notes here, which makes this law film a nice adult date-movie for a Friday evening.

    Any good law film requires a nice 'atmospheric education/training' in law cases/histories, so you might want to watch some episodes of Law & Order before enjoying Zaillian's A Civil Action.

    After all, who couldn't use a little 'jailhouse prep' (hehe)?

    If you're a movie-nut (like me), considering background research/prep might enhance your movie-watching experience. You might even want to read Margaret Mitchell's Gone with the Wind before seeing Victor Fleming's sprawling film Gone with the Wind!

    So here's some 'nail-biting' fun law-prep 'necessary' for A Civil Action (IMO).





    "A small law firm is accused of taking bribes from its clients and is investigated for its corruption while it's busy prosecuting a serious large power-plant for mishandled toxic-waste which has harmed the local residents (i.e., poisoned water). The legal counsel believes the case is worth pursuing despite the media-buzz regarding its own firm's legal problems."


    "A shopping-complex is terrorized by a mad gunmen (a recently fired post office worker) who is arrested before he kills anyone but then pleads criminal insanity. His legal defense team urges the court to consider the persuasiveness and bargaining-rationality of the insanity-defense in this unusual case, especially since the defendant has not yet harmed anyone. The Judge considers the wisdom of speeding the insanity-defense bureaucracy so the client can receive important attention from legal professionals/students studying the insanity defense."


    "A young man inherits his father's lucrative power-plant when his father is killed during a toxic-waste spill while touring the plant/factory one Saturday afternoon. The young man is very reluctant, given that he was not interested in being tied to his father's power-plant, but since there is very little organizational logic regarding the passing-of-power in his dad's company, the young man is compelled to take up the reins and steer the helm. During an important legal case involving the power-plant, the lawyers defending a client trying to sue the power-plant try to claim that the leadership/executive-board of the power-plant is suspiciously...apathetic."


    "A power-plant employee is caught taking money from his company's coffers to go gambling. When the employee (Stanley) is questioned, he claims he simply wanted to take out small amounts and try to win more at a casino and then put the money he took out back and only keep the winnings/profits. Stanley is a beloved employee of the power-plant and so receives special consideration/empathy, but when a case involving industrial espionage goes to court, the lawyers working on behalf of the power-plant are wary of any 'resume-blights' such as the precociously 'odd' case of Stanley."


    "A man claims his female boss sexually harassed him, but she denies everything. The man was once accused of raping a female student while he was studying at Dartmouth, and this case is cited by his now female boss's legal team. The man insists that this is all one giant conspiracy, but the legal team defending his female boss claim they're only 'providing arguments'."


    "An Algerian is arrested while trying to plant explosives by a large American chemicals-manufacturing company. The Algerian's name is Ali, and he believes he's trying to urge Westerners to consider the waste of industrialization and the apathy of modern capitalism/consumerism. His legal team wonders if they should plead criminal insanity or seek political asylum, since Ali has not yet technically killed anyone on his 'private crusade.' Ali is actually a secret operative working for the fundamentalist-Muslim terrorist group ISIS and wonders if his legal case (which is receiving much media attention) really symbolizes new age media madness..."


    "A woman walking home from work sprays an assailant trying to steal her purse with her mace. The man is injured and is taken to the hospital (since the mace was sprayed in his eyes and mouth!). The man claims in court (while defending himself) that the women spraying the mace was in fact using a deadly poison (oddly 'sanctioned' by society), which might raise the concern that weaponed/armed civilians symbolize modern anarchy. The man is found guilty, but one of the jury members is very amused when the man claims the woman who sprayed him with mace might be the real Poison Ivy (DC Comics), a fictional eco-terrorist."


    "A toystore owner is troubled when a young man comes in once every week in July and purchases a new toy water-pistol. The toystore owner decides to inform the police in case there's something suspicious going on involving this consumer buying water-guns every week. Two months later, the man is arrested for blowing up a power-plant; the man was planting his water-guns all around the explosion-site when he was arrested. In court, the man claimed he was a lone-ranger of eco-terrorism and is therefore not legally/morally 'tied' to anyone who knows him or to anyone he has had commercial dealings with (which relieves the toystore owner greatly)."


    "A chemical-factory employee monitoring the production of a new synthetic used in lipstick notices that some of the produced items are suspect but does not inform anyone. When the lipstick turns out to be toxic several months after being sold in shopping-malls, the man confesses to the authorities that he may have had prior-knowledge of the toxic elements in the marketed lipstick. He is summarily found guilty of negligence but wonders if he should have confessed at all."




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