Thursday, April 14, 2011

The Lincoln Lawyer - Movie Review

Here we go-- my first movie review.  What makes me qualified to do this?  Not much other than the incredible number of movies I see every year due to the fact that my husband is a huge movie buff.  We go to every Oscar nominated movie (I'm talking documentaries, foreign language films, cartoons--all of them).  We travel and hunt and rent all the Oscar nominated movies until I feel as though I can take no more.  February usually ends in a huge bout of what  I call Oscar depression given that there is not a Best Comedy category in the Oscar pool and about 99% of Oscar nominated movies are dark, deep and depressing.  

That being said, from March until December we see a lot of non-Oscar types of movies.  Tom says you can't be afraid of a bad movie.  I say I am very, very afraid of a bad movie and have been known to walk out if the movie is that bad.  At the end of my life, I really don't want to waste my time on a bad movie.  I'm pretty sure I'll want that time back.  

To see A Time to Kill was life changing.  It came out in 1996, a year before I graduated from college and the minute I saw it I knew that my planned career of being a high school English teacher would never happen.  I was going to go to law school and fight injustice in the world.  I know-- this is how a 21-year-old thinks.  

Moritz College of Law

In 1997 I did go to law school at The Ohio State University College of Law (now called the Moritz College of Law due to what must have been an impressive and sizable "gift").  In 1999 I was commissioned as an officer in the United States Navy and when I graduated from law school in 2000 I took the Colorado bar exam and then headed off to Officer School in Newport, Rhode Island where I learned how to be an officer (obviously there is a lot more to that story, but we'll save that one for another day).  Once I found out that I passed the bar exam I was off to JAG school, also in Newport, Rhode Island.  

For almost four years I got up every morning with an incredible amount of job satisfaction.  As a Lieutenant in the United States Navy Judge Advocate General's Corps you wake up every day knowing that no matter what you do that day, at the end of it you served your country.  It was an incredible learning and growing experience.  Living in Washington, D.C. during September 11, 2001.  Representing sailors and marines in courts martial.  Getting to fly in a Navy plane.  Going out to sea on a DDG class destroyer.

U.S. Navy Judge Advocate General’s Corps

As a defense attorney (even one serving in the Navy), you are basically at the bottom of the lawyer pool.  Your friends and family (and of course the Prosecutors) always want to know "How do you represent these people?"  They ask, "How do you sleep at night?"  You hear all the attorney jokes.  My standard response was that no one likes attorneys until they need one.  

As a defense attorney, my job was to provide zealous advocacy, to be an advisor and to represent my client's best interests.  This is all based on the American judicial's presumption that a defendant is innocent until proven guilty and that guilt must be proved beyond a reasonable doubt.  Further, it is the right of every defendant to have legal counsel whether or not he can afford it.  Come on-- we all read The Crucible in high school, right?  The problem without zealous advocacy of the accused is that sometimes people get so caught up in what they believe is "right" or "righteous" that the persecution of innocent or even guilty defendants can get out of hand and become unjust.  

That is why I slept fine at night knowing that even when my clients were charged with murder, rape, extortion, inducing a riot, arson, espionage and more that I defended their right to a fair and just trial by providing them zealous advocacy and by doing everything in my power to hold the prosecution to their duty of proving every element of each charged crime beyond a reasonable doubt.

I actually loved being a trial attorney.  The thrill of the investigation (I also always had this dream of being a Private Investigator--Magnum, P.I. style or even better-- like Cybil Shepard in Moonlighting).  Piecing the facts together.  Searching for the truth (both the innocent and the guilty tend to forget details that they don't think are important-- **Lesson-- these always end up being the most important facts).  The pit in your stomach as you first face your jury and try to study the men and women as you explain your client's side of the story.  It's an exhilarating career and I'm eternally grateful that I had the opportunity to have so many trials and to have such amazing experiences. 

I was twenty-four years old when I tried my first jury trial.  I look back and remember ironing my Navy Dress uniform late the night before a trial.  Making sure my shoes were polished.  That my medals and ribbons were perfectly aligned-- these are all things a military jury notices.  Every trial is a performance, but a military trial is more than that.  It's a well-synchronized dance through the Uniformed Code of Military Justice.  I have boxes and boxes of old files from the my trials.  Notes from interviews. Copies of evidence.  One of these days I will hopefully dig through those boxes and write a novel. 

Yikes-- I really digressed.  Back to the movie review....

Not since A Time to Kill have I so thoroughly enjoyed watching Matthew McConaughey on the Silver Screen!  A Time to Kill really did convince me that law school was the route for me.  It was a phenomenal novel by John Grisham and started my love of all of his novels.  All of which I have read and own.  It is one of those movies that actually captures the true spirit of the book.  It's a hot movie.  I mean literally hot.  It seems like every character sweats his or her way through the film.  You feel sticky just watching it because of the heat, the tension and the injustices.  In A Time to Kill, a young girl is brutally raped and her father takes the law into his own hands and kills her attackers.  Matthew McConaughey plays Jake Brigance, Carl Lee Hailey's (played by Samuel L. Jackson) defense attorney.  It is an awesome movie and I need to rent it again. If you haven't seen it and you like courtroom thrillers-- it is a classic and it is a lot of fun to watch a much younger (like 15 years younger-- ouch, I feel old!) Matthew McConaughey in this intense role.

This brings us to his latest courtroom drama-- The Lincoln Lawyer.

I went in with no expectations.  Maybe even low ones if you want to know the truth.  I haven't really loved McConaughey in anything recently.  The only name of a movie I can remember him in recently was The Ghosts of Girlfriends Past.  That's not saying much.  Also-- we had not seen any previews of this movie, so that made it even better.  Here's the problem.  I LOVE movie previews.  I get angry when we are running late and miss them.  But as of late, it seems like the movie companies put in way too much information and give away so much of the plot in the previews that by the time you actually go to the movie there aren't any twists or surprises.  

Back to The Lincoln Lawyer.  Matthew McConaughey as defense attorney, Mickey Haller.  Sublime.  Nail on the head.  It's riveting, but also humorous (ie-his license plate reads NTGUILTY and he works out of old town car).  What's even better is that after we saw the movie I did some research and found out that the movie is based on a popular crime fiction series by author Michael Connelly and there are four Haller novels so far.  SCORE!!!  Will we see McConaughey in future Haller roles?  We can only hope.  I've already put my order into the library (we have an awesome online library system, by the way-- you can request books, DVDs, etc. and when they are in you get an email to go pick them up) for the first two novels in the series. 

So here is how I utilize movie reviews.  I see the movie and then I read the review.  Backwards?  Perhaps.  Genius?  I think so.  Here's the reason-- movie reviews, like previews, give away too much information.  If I really don't want to go to a movie I will read the review to try and find reasons to convince my husband to see a different movie.  I also read movie reviews when I'm really on the fence and can't decide.  But I always try to not read too much of it before the movie.  I like to see the movie and see how I react to it and then read other reviewers to see their opinions.  Is it the right way?  Not sure, but it's my way.  My personal favorite movie reviewer is Peter Traverse who writes for Rolling Stone.  I always check to see if he has written a review on a movie and I love his take on movies as well as his writing style. 

At the end of the day, this was a fun, well-acted and well-directed movie and McConaughey was incredibly enjoyable to watch.  A defense attorney with a conscience and a wealthy playboy client.  It's a thriller both in the courtroom and out.  

I realize now at the end of this that if I'm going to hold myself out as a "reviewer" that I better set up some guidelines for my rating process.  Here goes:

1 Star = I hope you drank a couple glasses of wine at dinner and get in a nice nap (my favorite tactic for bad movies--a bad movie is just a great opportunity to catch up on a little sleep)

2 Stars = This movie is not as disappointing as Country Weak, I mean Country Strong
3 Stars = I'm not totally annoyed at spending $20 on movie tickets, $18 on snacks and $75 on a babysitter. 

4 Stars = Love this movie.

5 Stars = Love, love, love this movie and may name my next child after the director/producer/actor.

The Lincoln Lawyer is a solid 4.5 Stars.

Happy movie going!


  1. Love your rating scale. Now that we can work with.

  2. I love your movie rating system :-)


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