“The Hurricane” David Hickox

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Film Critique of “The Hurricane” David Hickox ENG 225 Jared Kline August 20, 2012 Film Critique of “The Hurricane” The movie, “The Hurricane” premiered in 1999 starring Denzel Washington and was directed by Jason Jewison. This film is based on a true story of Ruben “Hurricane” Carter.

This film is based on a biography titled “Hurricane: The Miraculous Journey of Rubin Carter” that was written by James S. Hirsch (Jones, 2000). The story starts in the mid 60’s when racial prejudice was still very high, and many where looking to keep the black man “in his place”, including a corrupt police lieutenant (Dan Hedaya) that had disliked Ruben for many years and had arrested him twice before.

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The story is a drama that unfolds in chronological order, but jumps back and forth to show how “Hurricane” remembers things, primarily during his stay in Trenton State Prison (where he is the majority of the movie), and to the 1980’s when Lesra Martin, a Brooklyn teenager (Vicellous Shannon) living in Canada reads an autobiography called The 16th Round and decides he wants to help the “Hurricane. A question that comes to mind is, how does an innocent person survive 20 years in prison dealing with confinement, physical deprivation, the rage of other inmates and the anger he hold for this injustice that at times leads to great despair. As “The Hurricane” shows, there is really no one way to do this. At times he had to cut himself off from the possibility and hope of getting out. At other times he had grab onto the hope and dream that freedom was possible, by connecting with people that wanted to help and encouraged him to keep fighting for what is right.

The selection of Denzel Washington as the lead actor and star and protagonist could not have been better. Denzel uses his professional acting abilities to draw the audience in with his tremendous dedication to portraying himself as Ruben “Hurricane” Carter, a middle weight boxing contender that is unjustly imprisoned for murder. “The Hurricane” uses a tremendous actor, and an experienced director that make incredible use of the state of the art cinematography, an abundant editing techniques, and great precision in the proper usages of sound..

The plot to this story is in a chronological order although much of the story is told in a reflective manner based on how “Hurricane” remembers things taking place, and narrates a good deal of the time which aids in keeping the audience aware of the timeframe that the scene is reflecting.. The story takes place in multiple places and covers about a twenty year range of time. The movie setting begins in Patterson, New Jersey in 1966 and begins with a shot of two men’s legs and the barrel of a shot gun hanging down, all in a dark setting as they walk along.

The scenes continue with the men walking through a door and then raise their guns; at this point the film cuts to the inside of a bar. The mise en scene consists of a bar with a glass background and many bottles of liqueur, a male bartender, a women standing and a man sitting at the bar which is dimly lit. They turn their heads to see who is entering. The film now cuts back to the barrels of the guns as they fire, and then there is a jump-cut to a man approaching the bar on a dark street. As the story continues it jumps to various scenes that are all done in dark settings.

Although, it was night it seems that darkness was intended to bring a dark seediness to these scenes, including one in the hospital where darkness continues. In a very short span there are several jump-cuts which move the action in the show along very quickly. Now the film transitions for time to the activity of Lesra and his getting to go Canada with people that will help him. This is a brief but significant encounter that includes a conflict of its own. The thing Lesra wants more than anything is to go to college.

In testing Lesra the Canadians discover that he is very smart, but he cannot read. They are willing to teach Lesra to read and prepare him for college, but his old fashion, black father opposes this. The father displays a form anger that really can be seen as a threat to his manhood and ability to be a good father. A small victory is won in this scene as the Canadians assure Mr. Martin that they are not trying to replace him as Lesra’s father. They are just trying to help Lesra to achieve his goal of going to college.

Lesra is finally granted permission, as a small, but important victory is won. Again a dark setting prevailed in the scenes surrounding this ordeal, indicating how dark things were at this time. When the action that was shown in the beginning of the film using quick jumps and movement from different but related scene to scene the movie was at a fast pace that makes the audience stay very focused in order to now miss anything. Next the editors held the scenes longer and did not make as many cuts.

The editors appeared to now be using more dissolve and fade editing in order to transition from one scene to the next. This caused the film to move at a slower and less tense pace. This film contains a significant amount of referential content, “The things that happen in the plot and that we understand about the story, even if merely mentioned rather than dramatized, are part of the first and most basic level of understanding” (Goodykoontz & Jacobs,2011, Chapter 10. 2, Digging Deeper: Levels of Meaning Summary of Movie Clips, par. 3).

Although there are some distant and medium distance shots, the cinematographers, mostly took close-up and very close up shots in order to bring your attention specifically to an action taking place or to see the facial expressions of the actors, particularly during intense moments, such as when the corrupt white detective Vincent Della Pasca (Dan Hedaya) and “Hurricane” meet at the hospital where the police are attempting to question one of the shooting victims. The cinematographers take advantage of filtering in order to emphasis or enhance mood and dramatic effects.

They also do an incredible job of controlling the depth and focus of the scene. Although this may actually be credited to the selections made by the editors, it is the cinematographer’s “job to translate the director’s vision for the film, to capture what the director wants to see and to say, and to physically make that happen” (Goodykoontz & Jacobs, 2011, Chapter 4. 2, What is Cinematography, par. 4). As the movie moves into the areas of Lesra and the Canadians deciding to seek the freedom of Carter, the darkness disappears from the scenes.

Now the scenes are light and bright. This helps the audience to have hope (things are looking brighter). This is an example of how the selection of lighting stayed in tune with what was occurring in the show. The lighting also seemed to basically set the mood or at least matches the activities that are taking place. Not only did the lighting help in defining the mood for the scene it greatly assisted in the transition of many scenes. This is particularly true when moving from a poor and negative (dark) scene to one of hope and encouragement that is show in a right setting with multiple bright colors to distinguish this change, not only geographically, but in mood and attitude as well. Lighting in several scenes was used in several cased to light up the backs of the actor, causing them to “pop out” from the rest of the mise en scene so that the audience knows to focus on that particular actor. It is apparent that the editors were very conscientious in their use of scenes. They made fantastic use of continuity editing throughout this film.

The editors did such a great job of arranging the shots the audience is never confused about what is taking place of in what time period even when the scenes are going back and forth from the present to the things “Hurricane” remembers and is either thinking about, such as his attempts to get a new trial, or talking about the past with someone else about thing like what happened the night of the shooting, other incidents from his memory, and then to the activities that Lesra and the tree Canadians are working on..

The editors made it very easy to follow what was past and what was present time. The professional use of editing also kept everything in line with the theme of the film while it moved from time period to time period. The editors show an expert level knowledge in controlling when to speed the film up, primarily by making quick cuts and jump-cuts that have the shots on the screen for a very short period. At the points when things needed slowed down, such as when the Canadians where analyzing and preparing a plan to get “Hurricane” his freedom.

This was primarily accomplished by keeping the shots on the screen for a longer period of time. This is consistent with our text for this class “Editing is far more than merely assembling shots into some coherent order that tells a story. It controls exactly what viewers will see and when they will see it and can profoundly affect how they will interpret a film” (Goodykoontz & Jacobs,2011, Summary of Movie Clips, par. 1). Sound effects were used in order to enhance scenes as needed, but not overly used as if to make too much of them and take away from the focus of the scene.

Sirens in the background or background talking that did not drown the dialog that was taking place are a couple of examples of this. There are also times when a sound effect such as the slamming of a book onto the table gave tremendous emphasis on the amount of frustration that Sam, one of the Canadians is having with the amount corruption he is discovering in relation to the conviction of Ruben “Hurricane” Carter. Sound effects also helped set the mood, for example by having birds chirping in the background as the sun rose at the Canadians home, giving a feeling of calmness and the start of a good day. The Hurricane” also uses music on occasion, such as when “Hurricane” first enters the Trenton State Prison the 1975 ballad “Hurricane” by Bob Dylan begins to play. It is very powerful to hear a song written as part of the protest of many celebrities (Bob Dylan, Dyan Cannon, Ellen Burstyn, Stevie Wonder, Burt Reynolds, Johnny Cash and others) wanting the release or at least a retrial in a non-corrupt court to be given the Ruben “Hurricane” Carter. (Jones, 2000)These activities of many performers and others show that the injustice to Ruben “Hurricane” Carter was not seen as fair and something needed to be done.

The dialogue in this film matched the era it portrayed very well, as did the attire worn by the actors. The dialog was always understandable and made excellent use of relaying information that is critical to the plot and story. One of the great lines in the dialogue of this film is Ruben “Hurricane” Carter stating “Hate put me in prison. Love’s gonna bust me out”. He could feel the love and dedication of Lesra Martin (Vicellous Shannon), and the three Canadians, Sam (Liev Schreiber), Terry (John Hannah), and Lisa (Deborah Unger) as they gave their all to see that “Hurricane was vindicated of this crime and set free. Berardinelli ,n. a. ) The dialogue, the music, and even the sound effects contributed to the excellence of this film in a very big way. All of these things contributed to feeling as though you are right there and it is taking place right before you. The release of the film brought even more attention than that of the activists, such as Bob Dylan. This causing a good deal of society to take a closer look at the situation causing many people to be prosecuted, but seemed suspect of being racial based or simply unjust by the way the criminal investigation took place.

This brings about a question for society, how many people are behind bars that should not be, and what can be done to improve the situation. Is sending a few innocent people to prison worth it, or should be more diligent and hold those involved, if intentional, accountable for this tragedy? The directing on this film was top notch. It is apparent that the director, Norman Jewison, took great care in making sure the story was put together in a way that would keep the audience in their seat wondering what setback would have to undergo next while hoping for the victory of freedom for “Hurricane”.

At the same time Jewison appears to have let Denzel Washington (Hurricane) takes his part and run with it and in many ways control the film. “The Hurricane” was probably the best film that Jewison has every directed, at least up to this point in his career. “For Jewison, who has spent the better part of a decade making marginal and/or forgettable motion pictures, The Hurricane represents a return to top form” (Berardinelli ,n. a. ) Jewison was apparently a fantastic facilitator in keeping all the pieces together in a way that made the entire movie the great success that it was.

This film makes it easy to feel as though nothing else in life was going on by keeping the audience entranced in this film as the journey of “Hurricane” progressed. “The Hurricane” showed great controversy and many pitfalls as Ruben and the Canadians attempted many avenues to get himself exonerated. It is difficult to tell Jewison, is a believer in the auteur theory from the stand point of director accountability, but he certainly seems to take charge and make things happen as he uses a great deal of technological knowledge in making this film unfold in a smooth and logical way.

Jewison’s professional skill is apparent throughout this film. Jewison manages to take this film as far as it can go in relaying a true story in dramatic yet heartfelt way. This film is a true winner for those of us who like to see unjust things get corrected. “A great deal of film analysis examines not only how filmmaking techniques shape the viewer’s understanding of a given film but how their style fits into a director’s body of work, a studio’s output, and/or a cinematic movement (Goodykoontz & Jacobs,2011, Chapter 7 Summary of Movie Clips, par. ). The team that worked on this film was apparently very dedicated to making this a great film. In order to do this they had to, and did, latch onto the vision that Jewison was creating about this story and how it would unfold. The actors, Cinematographers, and editors, as well as every involved in prop’s, lighting, sound, etc. stepped up and made a story come to life. In watching this film it is very apparent that not only the director and star of the movie, Denzel Washington, wanted this to be more than just a good movie.

The entire crew must have bought into the importance of the messages that this show was to send out, “Never Give Up” and “Justice Will Prevail. ” “The Hurricane” has continual and evolving textual theme of a 20 year battle inside one mind, and how a man became a hero simply by surviving. Although there were never any character figures, video games or other miscellaneous memorabilia created due to this show. The story, even before the film was produced was making a stir in the lives of many activists and artist such a Bob Dylan. This film stands tall as a masterful film on never giving up, and that injustice can be overcome.

This is a film that anyone would benefit from seeing… very inspiring. This drama is certainly a must see movie covering injustice, controversy, and finally victory by the freeing of Ruben “Hurricane” Carter. “The Hurricane” starts strong with a very dramatic seen and continues to keep your attention by having a standard of excellence from the lead actor, Denzel Washington, to great cinematography, the use of editing techniques that keep things moving in an exciting way, a superb job of directing, and integrating sound in just the right way and at just the right time.

These things and more make this an outstanding film, a must see! References Berardinelli, J. (n. a. ). “Hurricane, The”, Reelviews movie review. Retrieved from http://www. reelviews. net/php_review_template. php? identifier=259 Goodykoontz, B. and Jacobs, P. J. (2011). Film: From Watching to Seeing. San Diego: Bridgepoint Education Inc. , Retrieved from https://content. ashford. edu/books/AUENG225. 11. 2 Jones, M. (2000, January 7). “Hurricane: The miraculous journey of Rubin Carter” by James S. Hirsch. Salon Magazine. Retrieved from http://www. salon. com/2000/01/07/hirsch/

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