A Civil Action is a legal based movie, of a true story, that revolves around some heavy ethical issues. It features two large, supposedly polluting factories in Woburn, MA. This movie highlights the scenes both inside and outside the courtroom to make it easily understandable for the viewers.
The looming ethical issue in A Civil Action is the value of human lives in comparison to the dollar bill. The two companies in this film, Beatrice and Grace are accused of polluting the water in Woburn and eventually causing serious harm and death to eight children in the town. In the courtroom, both companies try their hardest to avoid being found guilty and therefore paying the amount of money configured by Jan Schlichtmann and his partners. In the end, both companies end up having to pay more money than they ever hoped to. Both companies know that they could have afforded the original offer made by Schlichtmann, but refused to pay it because of the image of the companies it would create. Perhaps if they had swallowed their pride, the outcome could have been different.
The turning points in this film are what cause it to be classified as a dramatic film. One major turning point in A Civil Action was if Schlichtmann never chose to go out to Woburn himself to decline the case to the families that lived there. He would not have been pulled over twice, and he would not have seen the river in person. His imagination would not have been sparked. Another point in the movie that had many effects was when Uncle Pete refused to give the attorney any more money or loans. There’s a possibility that if Schlichtmann had more money available to him, more research could have been performed. The scientists could have discovered the contamination in the ground, which would have lead to a different outcome in the courtroom. A different result in the courtroom would have also occurred if Schlichtmann had accepted the settlement offers. His attorney would not be as likely to fall apart under the financial pressure they faced.
The reason Schlichtmann refused the settlement offers was because he began to feel remorse for the families who were affected. He saw this situation as not just another case to be resolved in the courtroom, but as eight families who had to suffer through the loss of their children as result of carelessness from the offending companies. In contrast, Jan’s partner James Gordon struggled to see past the dollar signs and to the real situation at hand.
If I had been in the position that Schlichtmann and his attorney faced, I like to think that I would have felt the same compassion that he did. It all filters back to the lessons learned in childhood about what kind of person you want to be. I have a tendency to feel for people who have suffered. In Jan’s position, I would have been equally as driven. I agree with the outcomes in this movie simply because the truth was eventually found. The families finally felt the effort made by Schlichtmann.
A Civil Action was intended to be a riveting dramatic film, but those intentions didn’t always translate. The plotline, as interesting and intense as it was in real life, didn’t shine in this movie. As a viewer, I didn’t find myself to be engrossed in this movie. It seemed slow in many parts and the judicial aspect of the movie was borderline boring. This case had the potential to be the base of a powerful movie, but it failed to become that here, and therefore I would give it two stars, at best.