All I can muster to say about Norman Jewison’s 1999 film The Hurricane is…I am utterly speechless. Heart-wrenching, thought-provoking, tear-jerking, fist-pounding, frustration-inducing, and maybe uplifting? That aside, this film struck a chord in the depths of my soul and it hurt. I actually could not look at the screen for many of the dramatic moments where Rubin “the Hurricane” Carter (portrayed by Denzel Washington) is wrongly convicted. The amount of times this happened stirred a frustrated hate in my stomach and I wanted to leap into the action to defend his innocence! One scene that broke me apart was when the young Rubin, ten-years old I believe, is with a group of his friends when an elderly man approaches them. His friends manage to get away from this untrustworthy sexual predator, but Rubin is captured. In self-defense he takes out his pocket knife and plunges it into the mans shoulder, merely escaping his fate of being thrown over a rocky ledge into a pool of water. What destroyed me was the fact that the police men found Rubin to be the attacker and the frightful man was perceived as the victim. Unbelievable! Naturally, Rubin is taken from him home and put into a juvenile correctional facility. The racism is unnerving.
The film is based on a true story about Rubin Carter, a fighter who is wrongly accused of murdering three men and pays the devastating price of twenty-years in prison before he is found innocent and released. There is some controversy around the accuracy of the plot, but I feel Roger Ebert summed it up best saying,
“Several people have told me dubiously that they heard the movie was ‘fictionalized’. Well, of course it was. Those who seek the truth about a man from the film of his life might as well seek it from his loving grandmother. Most biopics, like most grandmothers, see the good in a man and demonize his enemies. They pass silently over his imprudent romances. In dramatizing his victories, they simplify them. And they provide the best roles to the most interesting characters. If they didn’t, we wouldn’t pay to see them.” He added, “The Hurricane is not a documentary but a parable, in which two lives are saved by the power of the written word.”
To say Denzel Washington delivers an awe-inspiring performance is an understatement. The range this man has baffles me at times, but this film definitely reassure you why he earns the big bucks for his acting chops. From the beginning, his voice grips you and his acting tightens the hold, leaving you breathless once the film culminates. No wonder he was nominated for an Academy Award for this role! Or maybe it had something to do with his rock hard abdominal muscles? Who am I to judge the criteria for being nominated but usually the rule of thumb is a little skin has to be showing. Anyways, this movie should be watched by everyone even if its details derail a little from reality. The point is to be immersed in Washington’s portrayal of the one and only ‘Hurricane’.