119 Min | Drama – Thriller – Crime | October 1979
IMDB Rating: 7.4
Director: Norman Jewison
Starring: Al Pacino, Jack Warden, John Forsythe
…And Justice for All Review: The Courtroom drama has enjoyed a level of prestige through almost every age of cinema, but this late 70s offering, And Justice for All, perverts the normal course of the subgenre in order to trash the very tenets and conventions of the American legal system. Soapbox pictures like this can often be a bit self-defeating, losing their audience amid the po-faced preaching. But And Justice for All takes a cunning approach. It keeps its (frankly depressing) subject matter afloat with a continual air of irreverence, vaguely surreal in the way it never quite borders on outright comedy. You’re always left wondering whether you are really supposed to be finding it funny. It is really only a slight exaggeration of the absurdity of real life. But so as to keep the central plot line serious, a lot of this semi-humour comes from a small set of supporting players, in particular the brilliantly manic Jeffrey Tambor, and Jack Warden doing the seedy authority figure act that seemed to account for his entire 70s career.
Their antics make Pacino’s impassioned outbursts towards the end of the movie seem more believable by comparison. And when those moments come, Pacino is at his charismatic best, conveying gravitas even when he is a haggard and unshaven mess. Director Norman Jewison’s style is at its most simple. Long takes, stark backgrounds and functional shot compositions are the order of the day here. The idea is that the images are that powerful, Jewison doesn’t need any fancy tricks. But that doesn’t mean there isn’t thought in what he does with the camera. He often gives varied coverage of a scene, throwing in shots on the periphery of the action to show systems at work, such as a courtroom artist sketching a relaxed John Forsythe. He also keeps his distance quite a bit, putting the characters in long shot even during a dialogue scene. …And Justice for All gives us in the audience a feeling of being cut off from what is going on, unable to help, like the crowd kept back from a crime scene.
The resulting picture is one of the most powerful and affecting of its kind. The point of stories like this is to leave the audience with a sense of injustice, a pro-active feeling that something must change. And on that account And Justice for All is nothing short of spectacular success. The best thing about “…And Justice For All” was the true and genuine care that Pacino’s character had for his clients. It was incredible that lawyer’s are human like everyone else. The only thing I would change about this movie would be to narrow the storylines because it had a few too many to follow. With the number of subplots in this film, it was too difficult to pinpoint the main plot and enjoy the film outright. Overall, …And Justice for All was good.