Denzel excels in bio-pic

By Claire Cummings

"I have spent thirty years of my life in a house of justice, but there has been no justice for me."

These are the words of Rubin "The Hurricane" Carter. Based on a true story, The Hurricane tells the tale of Carter’s wrongful conviction for murder in New Jersey in the late sixties. An up and coming lightweight boxer, Carter was the scapegoat for racist police officers and a system stacked against him.

Carter’s determination to survive and to transcend his circumstances sets him apart, but after two state trials and an appeal, his life sentence appears to be an unchangeable reality. As the years go by, Carter is forgotten by the celebrities who once lauded his cause, and cuts himself off from his family to numb his loss.

Things take a turn when his autobiography that gets into the hands of young Lesra Martin, a student living in Toronto. The Brooklyn teen is living with a commune of Canadians who become convinced of Carter’s innocence. They develop a friendship with Carter and eventually move to New Jersey to research his case.

The film gives an enthralling play by play of Hurricane’s life, flipping between his days of boxing glory and his time trying not to lose sight of his humanity in prison. His struggle to remain sane is shown dramatically in a scene when Carter is in isolation and is arguing with himself. His ‘selves’, one spitting out words of hate and one crying in the corner, sit in the room with him. Carter ultimately chooses to leave his hate behind and move to a new level of maturity.

Denzel Washington plays the lead in a powerful portrayal of Carter. Carter tries to have nothing and be attached to nothing so that nothing can be taken away from him by his jailers, and his struggle to accept help from those who love him that is the most challenging battle.

The court scenes in this film are refreshing because they don’t bother with Hollywood theatrics.

Carter’s lawyer is just as nervous as everyone else in the courtroom, and when he takes big risks there is no way to be confident in the outcome.

One of the funniest aspects of the film is the depiction of "The Canadians". There is of course the obligatory "Damn! It’s cold up here!", shots of soaring Canada geese, and plenty of toques.

Lines such as "Well, you know Canadians, they love to be outside. I think they’re raking leaves right now", brought roars from the audience.

The Canadians’ determination to stick with Carter is based on the truth, but provides way too many Oprah moments. By the end, scenes of brimming tears and hugs are losing their impact.

The Hurricane chronicles a powerful story of justice and race, and the risk of trusting others when you have no reason to trust. As Carter says himself, "Hate put me behind bars, but love broke me out."