Argumentative August #13 – Philadelphia (1993) –

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


Tom Hanks plays Andrew Beckett an up and coming young lawyer in a large and successful firm. Pegged for great things Andrew is given a vital case by his employers but on the deadline day an important file goes missing and Andrew is fired for negligence. Andrew is convinced that he has been sabotaged because one of the partners has noticed a lesion on his forehead which is a symptom of the fact that he is suffering from AIDS and that he was actually dismissed not only because of this but because he is gay.

Andrew decides that he’s going to take on his former firm but struggles to find legal representation until he eventually approaches a reluctant ambulance chaser called Joe Miller (Denzel Washington). Joe is not initially keen on the case and also has strong prejudices against gay people but his love of the law and strong sense of fairness makes him take on the case anyway.

Once in the courtroom Joe and Andrew will have to fight against not only the legal implications of the case but also the jury’s own prejudices and Andrew’s failing health.

Watching Philadelphia 22 years after it came out the prejudices it explores seem archaic in some ways, at least to someone living in the UK. although from what I can tell in some parts of the world things have not changed much. What it does make you realise that it is a landmark film that is not only a gripping courtroom drama but also a powerful social commentary and education piece. By dismantling the prejudices against Andrew through a court case and Joe’s moral turmoil the film shows how ridiculous and unfounded they are.

The actual legal wranglings are very exciting and the techniques Joe uses to get his point across are often unusual and quite dramatic which keeps the tension high and proves that he is a force to be reckoned with. And the tensioned is heightened by the fact that the audience ultimately knows that Andrew’s disease is fatal so any victory will be of a moral variety if he even sees the end of the trial.

Hanks gives an absolute powerhouse performance, which necessitated an enormous weight loss and netted him a well deserved Oscar and he is very ably supported by Washington in one of his most iconic roles as well as a then almost unknown Antonio Banderas as his partner.

Highly recommended.