A Civil Action
The book A Civil Action was made into the movie A Civil Action.
Book details for A Civil Action
Movie details for A Civil Action
The movie was released in 1998 and directed by Steven Zaillian, who also directed Searching for Bobby Fischer (1993). A Civil Action was produced by Walt Disney Video. More information on the movie is available on Amazon.com and also IMDb.
Actors on this movie include John Travolta, Robert Duvall, Tony Shalhoub, William H. Macy, Zeljko Ivanek, Bruce Norris, John Lithgow, Kathleen Quinlan, Peter Jacobson, Mary Mara, James Gandolfini, Stephen Fry, Dan Hedaya, David Thornton, Sydney Pollack, Ned Eisenberg, Margot Rose, Daniel von Bargen, Caroline Carrigan and Paul Desmond (II).
Steven Zaillian, who won an Oscar for adapting Schindler's List and directed Searching for Bobby Fischer, boils Harr's 502-page book into a complete, satisfactory film experience. Book readers will no doubt jeer the streamlining Zaillian had to perform to make the movie flow. Most changes can be quickly defused with the exception of the film's portrait of Schlichtmann. The lawyer has been turned into a movie star, an ultra-slick, cold-hearted gentleman who finds his purpose in working the case. Casting a stalwart John Travolta again diverges from the book, which right from the opening pages showed us a Schlichtmann with feet of clay. As Schlichtmann's partners (including William H. Macy and Tony Shalhoub) descend into the case, the unbridled sense of power and money is abandoned. This case is ultimately about survival.
Zaillian provides an excellent narrative for the sordid facts of personal injury suits, in which money is the only reward for lost or broken lives (deftly introduced in the film's opening scene). Zaillian also stays away from dwelling on the illness of the children involved, focusing on the gaunt faces of the parents who survive (Kathleen Quinlan, James Gandolfini) in controlled anguish. His evil characters--an industrial plant's owner (Dan Hedaya) and a corporate lawyer (another fine acting spin by director Sydney Pollack)--are so human it's terrifying. Zaillian's final ace in the hole is Oscar-nominee Robert Duvall. Perfectly cast as Travolta's opposition, Jerome Facher, Duvall steals scenes with the abbreviated dialogue; he turns a fancy settlement meeting into a farce with one line. Facher is not a callous, love-to-hate-him lawyer like James Mason in The Verdict. Facher represents the law at its brilliant foundation: to best represent one's client. With a taped-together briefcase and dry humor, Facher, not Schlichtmann, is the character who captures us by the film's end. --Doug Thomas