Jan Schlichtmann (John Travolta) is an extremely successful injury lawyer who reluctantly decides to take a case involving a tannery that may be responsible for contaminating a small town's water supply, causing the death of many children and the crippling affects of some others. His goal is to sue the two companies involved and make a lot of money as he usually does. One problem, he has to go against Jerome Facher (Robert Duvall) the best defense attorney in the country before his late retirement. Walter J. Skinner (John Lithgow) is the tough judge that is an obstacle for both sides to beat.
The cast in A Civil Action is one of the strongest I've seen lately. Travolta and Duvall are a great head to head duo, and Lithgow is just as good portraying a hard headed judge who only does things his way. There are a lot of barriers for Travolta's character. He is a Cornell graduate going against a Harvard graduate. Travolta has a small team consisting of a financial planner James Gordon (William H. Macey- JPIII) and his assistant lawyer Kevin Conway (Tony Shalhoub) while Duvall has a whole team of lawyers and researchers on his side.
The all-star cast is a real advantage for the movie, every character is fun to watch and all fit their part perfectly. Harr's direction is original and well edited. For a courtroom drama flick, you never find yourself bored or lagging in any particular scene. Much of the movie stays outside the courtroom. Jan and his team have to prove that Jerome's clients are responsible for poisoning the town, and it is very hard to do. Jan's financial planner has to step in to figure how they can keep their costs down and still productively research for the case. Money does become one of the hardest obstacles for Jan and his team.
The ending has several twists in it. There is no end the number of conflicts that just come out of nowhere. The judge pulls a trick which makes it even harder for Jan, and Jerome offers him an interesting settlement that toys with Jan's mind. A Civil Action is a great movie, mostly because of the cast and flawless screenplay. It is a movie for not only Travolta fans, but for people who enjoy a good solid movie, one that is hard to come by these days.
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