Argumentative August #29 – A Civil Action (1998)


Argumentative August #29 – A Civil Action (1998) –

Rob and I would like to once again welcome you to another review for our Argumentative August Blogathon. This next film, A Civil Action is being reviewed by myself here at Let’s see what I thought of this movie….


What did I like?

I liked the realism of the story and it’s characters. John Travolta plays a lawyer who is not afraid to back down even if it ruins his life both personally and professionally. He’s not willing to give in to the powerful companies he’s suing or their sly lawyers who know every trick in the book to get the case dismissed.

What didn’t I like?

How Robert Duvall’s character is not given much to work with for character development. We get introduced to him and then watch him work his magic. There no explanation or background story.

Was A Civil Action a good story?

I remember watching this movie about a decade ago. I was drawn into the story, hanging by a thread for the verdict. After watching it a second time it seems my memories have been tarnished a little since I did not enjoy it as much. Although this movie is based on true events, I had no desire to look them up and see what actually happened before or after the trial. A Civil Action however is a very good court room movie that shows how tough some cases can be when challenging the people who by-pass the laws with their money and connections.

Notable Performances?

I already mentioned Travolta and Duvall, but the one character who stood out the most to me was played by William H. Macy. I wouldn’t consider him one of my favourite actors, though I appreciated his role in this film. He is the financial brains behind the law firm and there is not a stone he’s willing to check under for money to fight this case. I think in the limited time he had, he outshined both headliners in the film.

Would I recommend it?

Yes. A Civil Action has long been gone from theatres where it made $56 million dollars. It is a rare movie that is not easy to find (I found it on a foreign country’s Netflix) so if you ever want to watch it, I’d recommend your local library which may have a DVD copy.


my star rating: 5 out 10

imdb: 6.5 out 10 / metascore: 68/100 / rottentomatoes: 60% out 100%

roger ebert: 3.5 out 4 / richard crouse: n/a

3 thoughts on “Argumentative August #29 – A Civil Action (1998)

  1. For all the complaints made in some quarters about movies being bloated and too long, this was one that was too short. This should have been a miniseries for HBO or something like that, to get the true measure of the story. The material this is based on remains one of the big Pyrrhic victories ever told – a little guy taking on big companies and, in the end, proving they were in the wrong, but losing everything in the process and never able to get the victory for the people he had promised – but the movie only scratches the surface. Part of the problem is the movie shifts the focus from the townspeople to the lawyers; even though Travolta’s character is the one who is the one who fights for the right reasons but in the wrong ways, the movie lets his character dominate in a way it shouldn’t (to be sure, Travolta never showboats here, and gives a very good performance). You mention Duvall’s character not being developed enough, and that’s symptomatic of the problem here, though I think he makes his character seem wily and intelligent, and avoids the stereotype of the corporate lawyer. In general, I think all the acting is good – along with those two and Macy, I also liked Kathleen Quinlan and David Thornton as two of the townspeople affected by the events, and James Gandolfini as a plant worker torn between the company and the town – but overall, the story deserved to be told in a better, and longer, movie.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s