‘Trials are too important to be decided by juries’
Movie: Runaway Jury
Starring: John Cusack, Gene Hackman, Dustin Hoffman and Rachel Weisz
Directed by: Gary Fleder
Year of Release: 2003
At it’s first glance, the title seems funny. However, when you probe and delve further into the movie, the title seems appropriate. The movie ‘Runaway Jury’ is less about the law but more about vengeance. It deals less with the Courtroom but more with events going behind it.
The movie beautifully depicts the concept of jury selection. Unfortunately or fortunately in India, we do not have a concept of jury trials. Same were abolished somewhere around the 1960s.
The story starts with birthday celebration of a child. Two minutes into the movie, the child loses his father. The widow of the deceased files a suit against the firearm Company which manufactured the gun, used to kill her husband.
The said suit was filed on the ground of gross negligence of providing the fire arms to anybody who is ready and willing to pay a price for it. The case is important and high stake as a verdict in the same in favour of the wife of the deceased would set a precedent for multiple law suits that could be filed against the firearm Company.
After filing of the suit, both the parties start with their jury selection procedure. The Defendant/Firearm Company hires jury consultant Rankin Fitch (Gene Hackman) to choose an appropriate jury that should give a verdict in Defendant’s favour.
The counsel for the widow/Plaintiff, Wendall Rohr (Dustin Hoffman) also hires a young jury consultant to help him choose appropriate jury members.
Both the parties had an instant dislike for a probable jury member Nicholas Easter (John Cusack) and discard him as a jury member at initial stages. However, later on account of some clever jugglery of words and situations Nicholas Easter becomes a pivotal Juror No. 9.
Nicholas Easter has an accomplice called Marlee (Rachel Weisz) and they have a plan to influence the jury to give a verdict as per their wishes.
The duo try to auction favourable verdict with Rankin Fitch and Wendall Rohr. Whichever party could provide more money, the verdict would swing in their favour.
Thereafter, begins a cat and mouse game which keeps you on your tenterhooks till the verdict is given by the jury.
The story of the movie is based on John Grisham’s novel of the same name.
The movie keeps you glued waiting for the next move by the three main characters. The movie focuses a lot on building the three lead characters namely Nicholas Easter, Rankin Fitch and Marlee.
The best performance in the movie has to be Gene Hackman in the role of Rankin Fitch. He looks and appears supremely elegant and vicious by nature. John Cusack plays Nicholas Easter very convincingly. The character is shown to have a mind of it’s own along with brilliant persuasive skills. Dustin Hoffman as Wendall Rohr is shown to be very upright and idealistic.
One of the most amazing and character driven scene in the movie is the confrontational scene between Rankin Fitch and Wendall Rohr.
There is another gem of a scene in the movie when a blind man desires to be a member of the jury.
In conclusion, the movie depicts a new angle to the Court proceedings and procedure. It goes into the life of jury members and their own predicament when they become jury members in an important case. At a running time of just above two hours ‘Runaway Jury’ is a highly engaging watch. The same should be seen for it’s sheer novelty of concept.